A team of scientists operating in Antarctica drilled through the Thwaites Glacier, also known as the “Glacier of Doom”. Extremely warm water temperatures were recorded beneath its surface.
The huge Thwaites Glacier is called the “Doomsday Glacier” because it is melting at an extremely rapid rate and the water coming from it can significantly raise ocean levels.
Scientists working on the glacier measured the temperature at the point where the part of the glacier on land merges into the glacier at sea. The water temperature in this place was above 2 degrees Celsius. The team found that the warm waters beneath Thwaites were actively drowning it.
Using hot water, scientists broke through a layer of ice several hundred meters thick, drilling a hole about 30 centimeters wide and 600 meters deep. A number of data collection devices were introduced through the resulting opening. The full results of the study are expected to be published in March.
Scientists are not yet able to definitively predict when the glacier may melt. They predict this will happen within a century. This is important because Thwaites, along with the nearby Pine Island glaciers, acts as a dam to the much larger West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Along with the Pine Island Glacier, two large glaciers currently hold back ice that, if melted, would raise ocean water levels by more than a meter.
“The warm waters in this part of the world should serve as a warning to all of us about the potential for catastrophic changes to the planet due to climate change,” said study participant David Holland, a scientist at New York University.