Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Launch of U.S.-British Project Set to Discover Fate of Huge Antarctic Glacier

Article Written By: Kyle Tam


 The largest U.S.-British Antarctic mission in seven decades officially launched on Monday, as the two countries pooled resources to conduct missions on West Antarctica's Thwaites glacier. This glacier, about the size of Florida, scientists fear, could cause a significant rise in the world's water levels.
 Thwaites is currently losing 50 billion tons of ice per year, driving 4 percent of global sea-level rise. Currently, the glacier lies on a 2,600-foot-deep seafloor 'bump' that scientists believe could one day give way. Should this bump disappear one day, Thwaites could contribute upwards of 10 feet of global sea-level rise.
 “If you have a soft bed, the bed deforms readily, the ice at the grounding line melts because of the ocean, it gets steep there, it wants to accelerate, and it wants to pull in ice from the interior,” said Sridhar Anandakrishnan, a researcher at Penn State who will lead the Thwaites mission alongside Andy Smith of the British Antarctic Survey. “And the bed says, ‘Yep, that’s fine, here you go.’ ”

(Natural Environment Research Center/Ben Gilliland)

The project seeks to gather critical data on a glacier located in an extremely remote area. The six field missions will deploy to Thwaites over the next several years, backed by two computer modelling projects to process data from those missions and make predictions on future global coastlines.

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Image: The floating ice shelf of Thwaites glacier via Jeremy Harbeck

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