West of the icy continent, the last shelf of the Thwaites Glacier is increasingly cracking, according to new scientific observations. It had disastrous consequences for coastal areas.
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Under the influence of global warming, annoying cracks threaten “Icy Apocalypse”. In West Antarctica, the Thwaites Glacier, 120 km wide, 600 km long and 3 km deep, is becoming increasingly fragile, according to the Make new notes for the audience*Monday, December 13th. “The last avalanche of the last ice shelf of Thwaites Glacier [qui représente un tiers du glacier] It can begin to cross hidden cracks and crevices within five years.”, Type glaciologists.
Thanks to satellite data, underground radars and GPS measurements, they observed breaks in the ice pack that serves as a buttress to the glacier. “The ice shelf is kind of like a windshield, with a series of slits opening slowly. You’re like, ‘I’m going to have to change the windshield, and one day, bang, there’s a million more slits'”glaciologist Erin Pettit explains to Science*. The ice structure is also weakening due to the intrusion of warmer sea water to the bottom.
The fate of this distant piece of ice is crucial, especially for those who live in coastal regions. The collapse of this platform will actually accelerate the separation of the glacier and its melting in the ocean waters. Thwaites already contribute 4% of the 8-inch sea level rise seen today and that contribution could increase by a quarter with the demise of the last platform. If the glacier, which has been threatened on the horizon for several centuries, disappeared, the sea level would rise by 65 cm. Even worse, West Antarctica, which has enough ice to push the oceans 3.3 meters high, will be at risk next.
As three glaciologists explained to franceinfo in 2019, this catastrophic scenario is irreversible today due to global warming caused by our carbon-intensive lifestyles (transportation, food, housing). But there is still time to limit the damage. “If we could go back to a slightly cooler period for example, it’s perfectly conceivable that the glacier would continue to retreat but in a very, very, very slow way.”, explained in 2019, Eric Regno, professor of earth sciences at the University of California, Irvine. As long as we reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly.
* All links marked with an asterisk are in English.
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