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Doomsday Glacier In Antarctica Melting At Fastest Rate In 5,500 Years

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Doomsday Glacier In Antarctica Melting At Fastest Rate In 5,500 Years

Antarctica's Doomsday Glacier is melting at its fastest rate in 5,500 years, a new study has revealed.

It's pretty chilling news, considering the glacier is about the size of Great Britain and will have a dramatic impact on rising sea levels.

Antarctica is divided into two ice masses called the East and West Antarctic Ice Sheets.

The Thwaites and Pine Island glaciers sit within the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Thwaites is the one nicknamed 'Doomsday' for its rapid melting rate.

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The study found the two glaciers have begun haemorrhaging at a rate not seen in the last 5,500 years.

Thwaites Glacier. Credit: NASA
Thwaites Glacier. Credit: NASA

Due to their gargantuan size, the Thwaites and Pine Island glaciers have the potential to cause large rises in global sea level.

Paper co-author Dylan Rood, an Earth scientist at Imperial College London, said in a statement that while the glaciers have been relatively stable during the last few millennia, their current melting rate is speeding up.

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"These currently elevated rates of ice melting may signal that those vital arteries from the heart of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet have been ruptured, leading to accelerating flow into the ocean that is potentially disastrous for future global sea level in a warming world," he said.

"We now urgently need to work out if it's too late to stop the bleeding."

At the current melting rate the of the two colossal glaciers could contribute as much as 3.4 metres to global sea level rise over the next several centuries.

Location of the Doomsday Glacier. Credit: Alexrk2/Wiki Commons
Location of the Doomsday Glacier. Credit: Alexrk2/Wiki Commons
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However, the twin glaciers are already contributing to the rise of global sea levels.

Ice draining from the two of them and into the Amundsen Sea already accounts for about 4 per cent rising sea levels around the globe, according to data captured by the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration.

The International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration will search for important clues that are buried deep under the ice in an attempt to find a solution to rising sea levels.

Researchers will now drill through the glaciers to collect rock underneath, which may contain evidence for whether current accelerating rates of melting are reversible or not.

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Fingers crossed they find something helpful.

The study was conducted by the University of Maine and the British Antarctic Survey, with academics from Imperial College London.

Their paper is published in Nature Geoscience.

Featured Image Credit: NASA. Stocktrek Images, Inc. / Alamy Stock Photo

Topics: Environment, Global Warming, News

Rachel Lang
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