This week, scientists released a report detailing their discovery that the Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica has a 1,000 feet deep and six mile long cavity, roughly the size of two-thirds of Manhattan, due to higher levels of glacier melting than previously expected or calculated. The cavity held 14 billion tons of ice, which melted in the past three years, contributing to 4% of global sea level rise.
The rapid melting of the Thwaites Glacier is steadily raising global sea levels, which will directly impact US coastal cities. If the glacier eventually collapses, global sea levels will rise by two feet, impacting high risk flood areas, such as New York or New Orleans, the most. The collapse of the Thwaites Glacier may lead to other glaciers sliding into the ocean as well. Thwaites currently serves as a barrier, preventing other glaciers from entering the water. If these glaciers were to slide into the ocean, then the sea level will rise by an additional eight feet.
Eric Rignot, one of the authors of the study, stated that, “this is the ocean eating away at the ice; it’s a direct impact of climate change on the glacier.”
In response, American and British scientists have launched The International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration to study the “stretching, bending, and grinding of the glacier,” and accurately examine the glacier’s melting rate.
Media Resources: Bustle 2/4/19; NBC News 2/4/19