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NASA images of the Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica show how it has fractured into smaller pieces over the past 1

0 years.

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Highlights of the story

  • The loss of the Thwaites Glacier could trigger the larger collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet.
  • The ice shelves are the guardians of the glaciers that flow from Antarctica to the ocean.
  • “These images to me indicate that these ice shelves are in very bad shape.”

Two of Antarctica’s most important glaciers are breaking free from their constraints, a new study reports.

This has potentially important consequences for sea level rise around the world.

Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers, which lie side-by-side in West Antarctica on the Amundsen Sea, are among the fastest-evolving glaciers in the region, already accounting for 5% of global sea level rise, the said. CNN.

The Thwaites Glacier is of particular concern: the loss of the glacier could trigger the larger collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet, which contains enough ice to raise seas by about 10 feet, the Washington Post said.

In the study, the researchers combined satellite images from various sources to get a more accurate picture of the rapid development of damage to parts of the Pine Island and Thwaites ice shelves.

Ice shelves are permanent floating sheets of ice that connect to a land mass, such as Antarctica, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Ice shelves are the guardians of the glaciers that flow from Antarctica to the ocean, according to NASA. Without them, glacial ice enters the ocean faster and accelerates the pace of global sea level rise.

According to the study, the damage consists of crevasses and fractures in glaciers, the first signs of the weakening process. Modeling revealed that the emergence of this type of damage initiates a feedback process that accelerates the formation of even more fractures and weakening.

More: Greenland and Antarctica are now melting six times faster than in the 1990s, accelerating sea level rise

“We already knew these were glaciers that may matter in the future, but these images indicate to me that these ice shelves are in a very bad state,” study lead author Stef Lhermitte of Delft University told The Washington Post. Technology in the Netherlands.

“We knew that giants were sleeping and these were the ones that lost many miles (of ice), but how far and how much uncertainty still remains,” Lhermitte told CNN. “These ice shelves are in the first phase of disintegration, they are starting to break down.”

More: Antarctica’s new record temperature: is it climate change?

By the end of the century, global sea levels are likely to rise by at least a foot above 2000 levels, although greenhouse gas emissions will follow a relatively low path over the next few decades, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.

How much it will increase depends mainly on the rate of future carbon dioxide emissions and global warming.

The ice shelf study was published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Read or share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/09/15/antarctic-ice-shelves-propping-up-two-major-glaciers-breaking-up/5804020002/