Thwaites aka 'Doomsday Glacier' melting since 1940s — Will all coastal cities be gone?

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This image shows Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica. — Inside Climate News via James Kirkham
This image shows Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica. — Inside Climate News via James Kirkham

New insights into Antarctica's Thwaites Glacier, also known as the "Doomsday Glacier," have been unveiled by scientists revealing that the glacier has been losing ice since the 1940s.

According to their recent findings published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the melting glacier has the potential to cause a catastrophic impact on sea levels.

Researchers used marine sediment cores to uncover evidence suggesting that the glacier began a significant retreat in the 1940s, which was likely triggered by an intense El Nino event.

Julia Wellner, an associate professor at the University of Houston, highlighted the Thwaites Glacier's retreat's similar patterns observed in neighbouring Pine Island Glacier ice formations.

"If both glaciers are retreating at the same time, that's further evidence that they’re actually being forced by something," Wellner added.

James Smith, a marine geologist, reportedly cautioned that once initiated, ice sheet retreats can persist for decades.

Ted Scambos, a glaciologist at the University of Colorado Boulder, also highlighted the compounding effect of natural events and human-induced climate change, stating that sustained warming exacerbates and perpetuates destabilisation.

Martin Truffer, a physics professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, echoed concerns regarding the fragility of glacier systems in the face of incremental climate shifts.

"Humans are changing the climate and this study shows that small continuous changes in climate can lead to step changes in glacier state," he added.

The study highlights the potential for Antarctica's glaciers to face resistance to mitigation efforts, as the world faces the relentless march of climate change, highlighting the delicate balance of their fate.