Three to five years

Science News on the Thwaites Glacier ice shelf:

The demise of a West Antarctic glacier poses the world’s biggest threat to raise sea levels before 2100 — and an ice shelf that’s holding it back from the sea could collapse within three to five years, scientists reported December 13 at the American Geophysical Union’s fall meeting in New Orleans.

Thwaites Glacier is “one of the largest, highest glaciers in Antarctica — it’s huge,” Ted Scambos, a glaciologist at the Boulder, Colo.–based Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, told reporters. Spanning 120 kilometers across, the glacier is roughly the size of Florida, and were the whole thing to fall into the ocean, it would raise sea levels by 65 centimeters, or more than two feet. Right now, its melting is responsible for about 4 percent of global sea level rise.

Cruise companies are even now planning cruises to go look at the ice shelf while it’s still there.

Satellite data show that over the last 30 years, the flow of Thwaites Glacier across land and toward the sea has nearly doubled in pace. The collapse of this “Doomsday Glacier” alone would alter sea levels significantly, but its fall would also destabilize other West Antarctic glaciers, dragging more ice into the ocean and raising sea levels even more.

Worse than predicted and much much sooner than predicted.

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