The discussions about Climate Change were not taken very seriously not too many years ago and there are still those who don’t believe it’s happening or that humans are responsible for it’s increasing effects. There have been many articles written and news reports broadcast about the melting if the glaciers around the globe. It is easy to see that most of the glaciers are receding at an unprecedented rate.

Ice Front Of Thwaites Glacier | Photo by David Vaughan

A team of thirty-two scientists just started a more than two month mission investigating what’s going on with the Florida-sized Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica. It has that ominous nickname “The Doomsday Glacier” because of how much ice it contains and how much water the melting glacier could put into the Amundsen Sea which it faces. It is estimated that the seas could rise two feet if it melts completely.

Research Vessel Nathaniel B. Palmer | Photo by blogspot.com

Considering the location of the research site the scientists are using the research vessel icebreaker Nathaniel B. Palmer to access the glacier and the waters surrounding it. The National Science Foundation (NSF) chartered vessel gives the scientists a safe environment in which to work and has the facilities for their equipment, sleeping quarters, and food preparation needs.

Ana Wahlin, The University Of Gothenburg, Sweden | Photo by Scitech Daily

The mission is a joint 50-million-dollar operation between the United States and the United Kingdom to study the glacier which is far away from any research centers and is the widest in the world by land and sea. In a January 6, 2022 article published on Physics.org (phys.org) titled “Scientists explore Thwaites, Antarctica’s ‘doomsday’ glacier” a couple of the scientists involved were interviewed. Oceanographer Ana Wahlin from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden was quoted explaining “Thwaites is the main reason I would say that we have so large an uncertainty in the projections of sea level rise and that it is because it’s a very remote area, difficult to reach.” She continued: “It is configured in a way so that it’s potentially unstable. And that is why we are worried about this.”

Geologist Erin Pettit, Oregon State University Ice Scientist | Photo by earthmagazine.org

According to the article, the British Antarctic Survey says that because the glacier is putting about 50 billion tons of ice a year into the water Thwaites is responsible for about 4% of the global sea rise and it is accelerating. Erin Pettit, an Oregon State University Ice Scientist, explained that “the glacier is collapsing in the following three ways: melting from below by ocean water;

Underwater Picture Of Thwaites Glacier | Photo by David Vaughan/British Antarctic Survey Via AP

the land part of the glacier is “losing its grip” to the place it attaches to the seabed, so a large chunk can come off into the ocean and later melt; the glacier’s ice shelf is breaking into hundreds of fractures like a damaged car windshield.

Location Of Thwaites Glacier | Image by Thwaites Glacier.org

This is what Petitt fears will be the most troublesome with the six-mile (10 kilometer) long cracks forming in just a year.”

Underwater Drone “Boaty MCBoatface” | Photo by Gizmodo, Australia

This is the first time anyone has actually set foot on the glacier itself. Back in 2019 Pettit was part of a team that did research concerning the Thwaites Glacier but nobody actually climbed onto the glacier. They used a couple of robot drones including “Boaty MCBoatface” which is the drone I described back in 2016 when the crowdsourced contest came up with the unique name.

A final quote from Ana Wahlin who explains Thwaites unique characteristics. “[It] looks different from other ice shelves. It almost looks like a jumble of icebergs that have been pressed together. So it’s increasingly clear that it is not a solid piece of ice like the other ice shelves are, nice smooth solid ice. This was much more jagged and scarred.”

The results of their research could give the scientists a better timeline as to how much time is left before Thwaites and other massive glaciers melt enough to raise the world-wide sea levels enough to cause catastrophe. Is there really anything we humans can do to prevent that? That is the million-dollar question isn’t it.

Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can comment below or email me at: tim.chuey@eugenedailynews.com.