UK, US launch biggest-ever study of Antarctic glacier

UK, US launch biggest-ever study of Antarctic glacier

The destiny of the Thwaites Glacier, seen right here in an undated photograph handout by NASA, is “one of the big unknowns” in Antarctic science

Britain and the United States on Monday launched a analysis programme billed “the most detailed and extensive examinations of a massive Antarctic glacier ever undertaken” to gauge how rapidly it may collapse.

Teams from Britain’s Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the US National Science Foundation (NSF) will go to the Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica to evaluate if its cave-in may start within the subsequent few a long time or centuries.

“The collapse of the Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica could significantly affect global sea levels,” the NERC mentioned in a press release.

Its government chair Duncan Wingham added the destiny of the glacier is “one the big unknowns” in Antarctic science.

“We presently have no idea sufficient concerning the chance, timing and magnitude of the collapse of West Antarctic similar to Thwaites for international locations to have the ability to plan accordingly,” he mentioned.

The £20 million (22.eight million euros, $27.5 million) collaboration will see 100 scientists and probably the most up-to-date devices and methods deployed to at least one of probably the most inhospitable areas of the world.

It will embrace drills capable of make entry holes 1,500 metres (four,900 ft) into the ice with jets of sizzling water and autonomous submarines.

“Satellites show the Thwaites region is changing rapidly, but to answer the key questions of how much, and how quickly sea level will change in the future requires scientists on the ground with sophisticated equipment,” mentioned William Easterling of the NSF.

The five-year, eight-project enterprise—known as the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration (ITGC)—is the most important joint mission undertaken by the 2 international locations in Antarctica for greater than 70 years.

Researchers from South Korea, Germany, Sweden, New Zealand and Finland can even contribute to the worldwide effort “to deliver answers to some of the big questions for scientists trying to predict global sea-level rise,” NERC added.

British science minister Sam Gyimah mentioned: “Rising sea levels are a globally important issue which cannot be tackled by one country alone.”

According to NASA, Antarctica misplaced 125 gigatonnes of ice yearly between 2002 and 2016.

The white continent holds 62 p.c of international freshwater reserves and its thawing may contribute to the desalination of the world’s seas, seen as a deadly incidence for a lot of marine species.

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