Yesterday, the United States and the United Kingdom embarked on an extensive scientific campaign to identify how rapidly the Thwaites Glacier, considered one of the largest glaciers in West Antarctica, might contribute massively to the continent’s ice thawing.
The meltdown of this glacier “could have a major impact on global sea levels,” says the UK Environmental Research Council (NERC) in a press release.
To find out if this meltdown might commence in the coming few years or decades, the NERC together with the American National Science Foundation (NSF) will engage about 100 researchers, water drilling rigs capable of piercing 1,5 km deep into the ice, and self-sustaining submersibles.
“Satellites show that the Thwaites region is changing rapidly, but to know to what extent and at what speed sea level will change, scientists on the ground with sophisticated equipment are needed,” explains William Easterling, an NSF executive, cited in the press release.
The mission is targeting to offer a better understanding of ice thawing and predict sea level increase, more accurately
Dubbed the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration (ITGC), the 5-year initiative is the most extensive one undertaken by the two nations in Antarctica since the 40s.
The project seeks to provide answers to certain of the major issues confronting the scientific community as it strives to forecast, more accurately, the sea level increase.
“The Thwaites Glacier is already contributing to sea level rise and understanding its likely collapse over the next century is vitally important,” explained further Sam Gyimah, the Secretary Of State for the UK Research And Innovation department.
Over a period of 14 years, between 2002 and 2016, as NASA has recently reported, Antarctica shed about 125 gigatons of its glacial ice each year. The continent accounts for 62% of the Earth’s freshwater supply and its increasing ice thawing is expected to considerably contribute to the desalination of the oceans worldwide, this being a devastating phenomenon for numerous marine ecosystems and sea creatures.