Ici, la langue glaciaire du glacier Thwaites, dans l’ouest de l’Antarctique. Pour la première fois, des chercheurs ont étudié les dessous de ce glacier à l’aide d’un sous-marin autonome. Et les données qu’il a rapportées sont plutôt inquiétantes. © Nasa

Dive under the “End of the Ice World” and return with disturbing news

For a few years now, researchers have realized that Thwaites Glacier, located in western Antarctica, is one of the regions most sensitive to global warming caused by human activities. The new work could justify its title “Glacier at the End of the World”. By diving – almost – for the first time under the Thwaites Glacier, researchers have already discovered streams of hot water that appear to threaten the substrates on which they rest.

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disastrous. Apocalyptic. Or even “doomsday”. “Day of the End of the World”. These are some possible translations of this term ” Doomsday “ Used by English speakers to qualify Thwaites Glacier. It is a glacier in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. And this title he owes to his impressive size. Approximately 200,000 km2 It is one third of the size of France. But above all to the fact that in recent years, he acquired a large portion – a third in 2012 – of Mass From the lost ice on the side of the Ile de Bain Bay that opens to the Amundsen Sea.

Global sea level is affected by the amount of ice present Earth. However, the greatest uncertainty in forecasts is the future development of the West Antarctic ice sheet. “Anna Wolin, an oceanographer at the University of Gothenburg (Sweden), explains in A. Communicate. Because if the West Antarctic ice sheet accounts for 10% of the current rate of sea level rise, then it also represents one of the greatest potential for future rise. Because of weather changes The fastest in the world occurs in the region.

This is why that Researchers from the University of Gothenburg He wanted to take a closer look at what was happening on the side of the Thwaites Glacier. More precisely … under the glacier. Thwaites Glacier, by its location and shape, is particularly sensitive to warm and salty ocean currents that wind their way downward. Thanks prof Submarine The researchers were finally able to measure the strength, temperature, salinity, and oxygen content of these currents.

Streams of hot water threaten the stability of the glacier

These are the first measurements ever under this glacier. They will help us better model its dynamics. ”Anna Wolin says. In the near future, they provide researchers with information on the distribution Ocean currents As it develops beneath the floating part of the Thwaites Glacier. They exposed several channels for hot water. “How and where these warm waters attack the Thwaites Glacier is influenced by the shape of the sea floor and the base Ice raft, But also the properties of the water itself. “

While researchers believe an underwater ridge blocking the flow of hot water from the east, measurements made by their autonomous submarine now show a true connection. The water enters from under the platform from the bay of Ile de Pin. Two other channels coming from the north have also been modernized.

Perhaps most importantly, the fact that the new data the researchers have collected reveals a surprisingly active region. An area where different masses of hot water meet and mix. In ballet it is important to understand in order to define processes Source At the base of the ice. But who is at the moment directingHot water To critical locations on the glacier. Places where ice is connected to the sea floor, ensuring platform stability. So we understand the line around this Anchorage Points It can be a worrying source of instability. Huge amounts of ice flowed from the land to the sea.

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