Huge cavities threaten glaciers larger than Great Britain

British scientists have mapped half-sized cavities in the Grand Canyon that allow warm seawater to erode Antarctic giant Thoetz Glacier, accelerating sea level rise around the world.

Like tooth decay, warm water channels are melting ice from the bottom, threatening the stability of glaciers larger than Great Britain.

A British Antarctic survey using aircraft, ships and robotic submarines and a U.S. team identified gaps between seabed areas and ice sheets to measure gaps between the previous ground parts of the glacier.

They measured two old caves that spanned about six miles (10 kilometers) and were 600 meters deep, allowing warm water to flow under the ice. These have been formed for at least 10,000 years. In addition, they have mapped several new, thinner fishers extending from these major stems in warmer temperatures over the past 30 years.

The results were published this week in the Journal of the Atmosphere. The good news is that the new channels are still not as big as previously thought, which may not come as soon as the Thai thugs are expected to fall. The bad news is that scientists believe the cavities are getting wider, but they don’t know how fast.

“Before we did these studies, it was assumed that all channels were the same, but the new ones were much thinner and more dynamic. They will get bigger over time, ”said Tom Jordan, an aerobic physicist from the British Antarctic Survey, one of the top authors.

“Understanding that process and how these cavities evolved will be the key to understanding how the Thoites and Western Antarctica will change in the future.”

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A joint photo of the Thaits Glacier, taken on 2 December 2001 (left) and 26 December 2019, shows the changes that have taken place since the turn of the century.
A joint photo of the Thaits Glacier, taken on 2 December 2001 (left) and 26 December 2019, shows the changes that have taken place since the turn of the century. Combination: NASA / EPA

This is one of the most important questions in today’s world. The paper notes that the Thai Glacier covers an area of ​​40,000,000 square miles (192,000 sq km) and is particularly vulnerable to climate change.

In the last 30 years, ice damage from the Thoyats and surrounding glaciers has increased fivefold, to more than 4% of global sea level rise. If the glacier collapses completely, it will add another 25 inches (65 cm). Many scientists believe that this process is already underway but the speed of the collapse remains unknown.

The new study is part of an effort to assess these risks through the International Thotes Glacier Collaboration.

“We’re halfway through the process so these are interim statistics,” Jordan said. “Intuitively, it would seem that new thin cavities would enter less hot water so that the fall of the glacier would be slower than previously believed, but this needs to be confirmed. This data should be included in future models. “

There has been some talk of geogenesis to stop the flow of warm water, but Jordan says it would be costly in such remote areas. Instead, he called for reducing emissions as the most costly way to mitigate the effects of climate change.

“Theoretically, we could build a dam to stop the hot water coming in, but these channels are ridiculously large. We can intervene more cheaply by reducing carbon dioxide,” he said.

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