Two major Antarctic glaciers breaking, could affect sea levels

Two major Antarctic glaciers are breaking apart, leading to the damage of vital ice shelves that could result in the rise of sea levels globally.

The two glaciers, namely the Pine Island and Thwaites, which are located in West Antarctica, are breaking up at a rapid speed, which already results in 5% of the global sea rise.

Consequences of the glaciers melting

A report by Washington Post states that the glaciers’ foundations are getting weaker, and the damage done in the past few decades is speeding, which could make the glaciers collapse in the future.

The collapse of the ice shelves would significantly impact sea levels, which could go up by 10%. Stef Lhermitte, a satellite expert at the Delft University of Technology, Netherlands, states that it was evident and assumed that these glaciers were necessary for the future. Still, the satellite images portray the ice shelves’ bad state. The photos showed open fractures and giant crevices in the glaciers.

Both the glaciers connect the West Antarctic ice sheet to the ocean. Given that the Thwaites Glacier is one of the most massive ice chunks, covering about 74,000 square miles, which is almost the size of Great Britain or Florida in the US.

The melting of it could make the sea levels rise by 1.2 meters, according to NASA.

 

Impact on the ice glaciers

The most common and the most dangerous reason for the melting of the icecaps is the greenhouse gases produced in the environment, mainly due to human activities across the globe.

In the case of Pine Island and Thwaites Glaciers, they are rapidly melting due to the ocean’s warming and cannot replenish themselves because of a decline in the snowfall.

Researchers found that while the breaking apart of Pine Island Glacier’s shear margins has been documented since 1999, their satellite images show that the damage sped up a lot in 2016. The damage to the Thwaites Glacier began increasing in 2016, and the crevices started opening up near the glacier’s grounding line, which is where the ice meets the rock bed.

Spanning three decades, the rate of ice loss has increased five times, and if the entire Thwaites collapses, the seal level could go up by 25 inches.

Antarctica is not the only place with the decline of ice rates. Scientists recently announced that a 44 square mile chunk of ice, about twice the Manhattan size, has broken off the Arctic’s most massive remaining ice shelf in Greenland.

Image courtesy of Maridav/Shutterstock

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