In the next summer, scientists are headed for West Antarctica's Thwaites Glacier. Thwaites Glacier has been melting rapidly in recent years because of climate change. The glaciers, roughly the same size as Florida or Britain, hold back enormous ice masses and it’s rapid melting makes it an important area of research for the scientists.
The research collaboration is between the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and the United Kingdom's Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). The project has a budget of $25 million (about Rs. 175 crores). More than 100 polar scientists from around the world will be part of this study. The cooperation together is called the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration (ITGC).
There are in total of eight teams which will study and work on Thwaite Glaciers, the climate surrounding it and also the water underneath and the edges. The project is expected to take five-years beginning in October 2018.
These melting glaciers are responsible for four percent of the global sea-level rise. As per the mission website, over the past 30 years, the amount of ice flowing out of this 120-kilometer-wide region has nearly doubled. Warm ocean water from the Amundsen Sea circulating under the ice is causing the glacier to melt. The resulting flow cuts deeper into the ice speeding up the melting even more.
As per UK Science Minister, Sam Gyimah, “Rising sea levels are a globally important issue which cannot be tackled by one country alone. The Thwaites Glacier already contributes to rising sea levels and understanding its likely collapse in the coming century is vitally important.”
Studying the Thwaites Glacier might help scientists find an answer to the rapid rise in the sea level and also indicate how deep the problem already exists. The scientists will study and explore the marine sediments and ocean. They will also study and measure the waves flowing in the deep sea and then examine the stretching, bending and grinding of the glacier from the landscape below.
The study is going to be difficult as it is situated in one of the remote areas. The research station is 1609 kilometers away from the Thwaites Glacier. The research time frame is very small due to the weather conditions.
It is believed that if the entire Thwaites Glacier collapses, that could result in sea level increase by 13 feet.