Team of scientists from the United States analyzed data on the melting of the Thwaites glacier and came to the conclusion that it is not collapsing as quickly as previously thought.
The researchers concluded that the world’s largest ice sheets may be in less danger of sudden collapse than previously thought. This was reported by scientists from the University of Michigan.
The study, published in the journal Science, involved modeling the collapse of the Thwaites Glacier (also known as the Doomsday Glacier) in West Antarctica, one of the largest and most unstable glaciers in the world. Researchers have modeled the collapse of ice rocks of various heights – near-vertical formations that arise where glaciers and ice shelves meet the ocean. They found that instability does not always lead to rapid destruction.
“We have found that for a long time ice behaves like a viscous liquid, like a pancake spreading in a pan,” said Jeremy Bassis, assistant professor of climate and space science and engineering at the University of South America. “Therefore, the ice spreads and becomes thinner faster than it can fall, and this can stabilize the collapse. But if the ice cannot thin out fast enough, then there is the possibility of a rapid collapse of the glacier.
The researchers added that Thwaites and other glaciers are not melting as quickly, but knowing the exact rate of their disappearance is important for coastal areas that are developing adaptation and resilience strategies. However, predicting the decline of glaciers is difficult, this process includes many factors – stress and deformation of billions of tons of moving ice, changes in air and water temperatures, the effect of flowing liquid water on ice, and many others.
As a result, forecasts for the destruction of the Thwaites Glacier range from several decades to many centuries. The new study, Bassis said, is an important step towards making accurate and actionable forecasts.