Doomsday glacier "hanging on by its fingernails" scientist says

Good news, everyone. According to Rob Larter, marine geophysicist at the British Antarctic Survey, Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica, nicknamed the "Doomsday" glacier because of its potential catastrophic impact on global sea levels, is experiencing "rapid retreat."

"We should expect to see big changes over small timescales in the future—even from one year to the next—once the glacier retreats beyond a shallow ridge in its bed," said Larter in a press release about the study.

Larter and his colleagues came to this frightening conclusion after extensively mapping the seafloor in front of the glacier, which is bigger than Florida, using a robotic vehicle. The results revealed a pattern of ground "rib" formations buried about half a mile beneath the ocean, each of which was etched out by interactions of the ice and ocean. 

Using this geological record, the team was able to identify a period sometime in the past 200 years when Thwaites Glacier lost touch with a ridge in the seabed that was stabilizing it, causing it to recede twice as fast as the rate revealed by modern satellite observations. During these periods, the icy landscape retreated at a rate of more than 2.1 kilometers per year (1.3 miles) per year.

Read the rest here.

[Via Mondo 2000]

Thumbnail: Thwaites Glacier, NASA