Home Glaciers Why is Thwaites Glacier called the “Glacier of the Apocalypse”?

Why is Thwaites Glacier called the “Glacier of the Apocalypse”?


The fate of the Thwaites could have serious repercussions on our planet.

Today, the glacier occupies a deep ocean basin. If it “substantially” retreats, Nitsche warns that “sea water would enter this basin. The surrounding ice, including other glaciers, would begin to flow into this basin and thin as well.”

Certainly, as Nitsche explains, the merging process would take hundreds of years “if not more than a thousand” to unfold. But that’s no excuse for inaction on our part, especially because the loss of the Thwaites could also cost us a huge percentage of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

“If the Thwaites Glacier is entirely lost, it will cause the global mean sea level to rise by 25.6 inches. [65 centimeters]”, Larter tells us. He also says that if “all adjacent parts of the West Antarctic ice sheet where the ice bed is below sea level are lost”, there will be a global average increase in sea ​​level nearly 11 feet, or 3.3 meters.

Even so, perhaps the Thwaites don’t deserve their doomsday moniker.

“I don’t like the term ‘apocalyptic glacier,'” says Nitsche. According to him, the word “apocalypse” implies that we cannot take any proactive measures to slow the retreat of the glacier.

In fact, we can. Reducing our greenhouse gas emissions could go a long way towards preserving the Thwaites, at least for a while.

“It will take a long time (hundreds of years) to melt all the ice from the Thwaites Glacier, but it will happen faster if we continue to heat the planet quickly and much slower if we manage to drastically limit global warming. the planet,” observes Nitsche. “So we could have some influence on how quickly it happens and how much time we have to adapt or mitigate the potential effects.”