Researchers plan biggest ever Antarctic field campaign

The edge of the Thwaites glacier [credit: NASA photograph by Jim Yungel]

This BBC report seems unaware that a study in 2014 found that parts of the Thwaites Glacier are subject to melting due to subglacial volcanoes and other geothermal “hotspots”.

British and American scientists will assess the stability of one of Antarctica’s biggest ice streams, reports BBC News.

It is going to be one of the biggest projects ever undertaken in Antarctica.

UK and US scientists will lead a five-year effort to examine the stability of the mighty Thwaites Glacier.

This ice stream in the west of the continent is comparable in size to Britain. It is melting and is currently in rapid retreat, accounting for around 4% of global sea-level rise – an amount that has doubled since the mid-1990s.

Researchers want to know if Thwaites could collapse. Were it to do so, its lost ice would push up the oceans by 80cm or more.

Some computer models have suggested such an outcome is inevitable if conditions continue as they are – albeit on a timescale of centuries. But these simulations need to be anchored in many more real-world observations, which will now be acquired thanks to the joint initiative announced on Monday.

“There is still a question in my view as to whether Thwaites has actually entered an irreversible retreat,” said Prof David Vaughan, the director of science at the British Antarctic Survey.

“It assumes the melt rates we see today continue into the future and that’s not guaranteed. Thwaites is clearly on the verge of an irreversible retreat, but to be sure we need 10 years more data,” he told BBC News.

The UK’s Natural Environment Research Council and the US National Science Foundation are going to deploy about 100 scientists to Thwaites on a series of expeditions.

The International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration (ITGC) is the two nations’ biggest cooperative venture on the White Continent for more than 70 years – since the end of a mapping project on the Antarctic Peninsula in the late 1940s.

Grants for research totalling £20m have been awarded. Once the costs of transport and resupply to this remotest of regions is factored in, the total value of the ITGC will probably top £40m.

Thwaites is a marine-terminating glacier. Snows fall on land and these compact into ice that then flows out to sea.

Continued here.

via Tallbloke’s Talkshop

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April 30, 2018 at 05:18PM

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