Research: the key ice shelf of the swetz glacier may collapse within five years

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3ec271a5ce396da - Research: the key ice shelf of the swetz glacier may collapse within five years

the swetz glacier spans 120 kilometers along the west coast of Antarctica. It is a key focus of climate scientists, including the international swetz glacier Cooperation (ITGC). This large glacier is particularly vulnerable to climate change – the impact of its demise will be devastating

Ted Scambos, the chief U.S. coordinator of ITGC, said: “Switz is the widest glacier in the world. Its outflow rate has doubled in the past 30 years, and the water volume of the whole glacier is enough to raise the sea level by more than 2 feet (0.6 meters). Moreover, if it attracts the surrounding glaciers, it may lead to more sea level rise, up to 10 feet (3m). “

recognizing these interests, ITGC was established in 2018 to study the svetz glacier and monitor its changes in five years. Nearly 100 scientists participated in it. Together, they collected data on ice and surrounding water and modeled future changes.

one of the most important structures is the svetz Eastern ice shelf, which is a floating ice block , it supports about a third of the glaciers and slows the flow of ice into the ocean. The ice shelf itself is nailed to an underwater mountain, which keeps it relatively stable with the glacier

however, ITGC found that the eastern ice shelf of swetz was being attacked from multiple angles. Long channels are being formed under the ice shelf, which makes it easier for water to flow and melt ice more effectively

radar images show that large cracks are spreading to the center of the ice shelf at a speed of up to 2km per year. Worse, these cracks are moving towards the weak area of thin ice, which will trigger a herringbone crack pattern and eventually lead to the collapse of the whole ice shelf. The researchers calculated that this is likely to happen in just five years – and once the ice shelf disappears, the glacier will destabilize faster

the continental part of the swetz glacier has also been threatened. A submarine robot was sent down to inspect the grounding area, where the ice was fixed on the bedrock below. They found that the water there was relatively warm and salty, and it was melting ice from below. Worse, the floating ice shelf fluctuates with the tide, which pumps water to the grounding area of the glacier

in addition, the team simulated what would happen when the swetz glacier retreated further inland. Very high ice cliffs may form along the sea surface, which may break into the sea and cause the glacier to retreat at a very fast speed, which will eventually lead to Glacier collapse. The research team points out that this may happen in decades or centuries

Scambos said: “if swetz collapses, it will drag down most of the ice in western Antarctica. Therefore, a clearer understanding of how the glacier will behave in the next 100 years is crucial.”

it is understood that ITGC will continue to study svetz glacier in the next three years. Their current work has been presented at the AGU autumn meeting