Thwaites Glacier at risk of collapse

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Scientists say that the Thwaites Glacier is at high risk of collapse within the coming years.

Nicknamed the Doomsday Glacier, this glacier has been eroding from its underwater base as the planet warms. It has the potential to raise sea levels by several feet if it collapses.

“Thwaites is really holding on today by its fingernails, and we should expect to see big changes over small timescales in the future — even from one year to the next — once the glacier retreats beyond a shallow ridge in its bed,” says marine geophysicist Robert Larter.

The glacier has been a concern to scientists for many years now. Reports have been emerging as of 2021 that show just how dire the situation regarding Thwaites’ potential collapse is. 

Oceanographer Peter Davis reported in 2021, “From the satellite data, we’re seeing these big fractures spreading across the ice shelf surface, essentially weakening the fabric of the ice; kind of a bit like a windscreen crack.”

Scientists hope to gather information to learn when previous retreats of the glacier occurred, as well as what can be done to prevent the glacier from collapsing. For now, however, the doomsday glacier remains a looming threat to sea levels across the globe. 

“Just a small kick to the Thwaites could lead to a big response,” marine geophysicist Alastair Graham says.