Antarctica's 'Doomsday Glacier' began melting in mid-20th century: study

The Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica — often known as the “Doomsday Glacier” because of the potentially catastrophic consequences of its hypothetical collapse — began retreating rapidly at an earlier date than scientists previously knew, according to a study published Monday.

Published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, The study used New satellite technology to end the rapid melting of the glacier likely began in the 1940s.

While scientists had already noticed the glacier's accelerating retreat by the 1970s, they didn't know when it began.

Combined with previous research on Pine Island Glacier adjacent to Thwaites, the study also provides new, and potentially alarming, insight into why the glacier is melting.

Scientists attempted to reconstruct the glacier's history using analysis of the marine sedimentary record, and found that the Thwaites and Pine Island glaciers lost contact with seafloor highs in the 1940s – around the same time.

The scientists found that these significant changes occurred against the backdrop of a massive El Niño climate phenomenon, showing that the glaciers were “responding to the same driver(s).”

“The simultaneous retreat of ice in these two major ice streams suggests that rather than being driven by the unique internal dynamics of each glacier, the retreat in the Amundsen Sea drainage sector results from external oceanic and atmospheric drivers, which recent modeling studies show are influenced by climate.” “Variability” I also read the study.

Scientists point out that the continued retreat of glaciers shows how difficult it is to reverse some of the consequences of naturally occurring weather events, which they say are made more difficult by human activity.

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“Ice streams such as Thwaites Glacier and Pine Island Glacier have continued to retreat since then, suggesting that they were unable to recover after the exceptionally large El Niño of the 1940s,” the scientists wrote.

“This may reflect the increasing dominance of anthropogenic forcings since that time, but implies that this involves large-scale, as well as local changes in the atmosphere and oceans.”

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