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Global warming scientists consider the Thwaites glacier in West Antarctica to be one of the most vulnerable and important glaciers in the world because it supports the entire West Antarctic ice sheet. Its collapse could destabilize the surrounding glaciers, and eventually, global sea levels will rise by 3.3 meters in a few hundred years, threatening coastal areas and communities around the world.
The Thwaites glacier covers an area of 192,000 square kilometers, larger than that of the state of Florida.
Earlier this year, a team of scientists used the Icefin underwater robot to find out why this glacier is melting at an accelerated pace. The project is called MELT and was carried out with the support of the U.S. Antarctic Program and the British Antarctic Survey. As part of the MELT project, the Icefin underwater robot was lowered through a 600-meter-deep well drilled in the Thwaites glacier.
The data showed the presence of hot water at a vital point below the glacier, which explains its melting. Melting takes place from the bottom up due to the influx of water caused by climate change. The temperatures found were 3°C (37.4°F) to 4°C (39.2°F), which are enough to melt the ice quickly.
Scientists already knew that Thwaites had lost massive amounts of ice, over 600 billion tons since the 1980s, and is now melting even faster than before. More detailed studies are needed to know more precisely where, in what way, and in what rhythm the Thwaites is going to disintegrate.
Both Antarctic and Arctic regions are warming faster than the rest of the world, with temperatures in the Arctic reaching record highs, with an alarming high of 30°C (86°F) in Siberia in June.
If you want to find out about the A68 iceberg, check out our article on this topic: A68: The beginning of the end for the largest iceberg in the world.
[Photo from Unsplash]