Scientists claim to have photographed foothills of Thawites Glacier

Pablo Tucker
February 3, 2020

A special point of interest, visited by the robotic submarine, called Icefin, is a boundary called the grounding line between where the glacier rests on the ocean floor and where it floats over water.

Thwaites' demise alone could have significant impact globally.

A team of scientists has observed, for the first time, the presence of warm water at a vital point underneath a glacier in Antarctica-an alarming discovery that points to the cause behind the gradual melting of this ice shelf while also raising concerns about sea-level rise around the globe.

Icefin was deployed five times and covered a distance of more than nine miles (15km) after being released through a borehole 2,000ft (600-meter) deep and 12 inches (35cm) wide earlier this month.

Icefin uses sonar, chemical and biological sensors to research areas that are hard to access under the ice and can collect information about the sea and structures such as glaciers.

Icefin is created to take several measurements, including tracking the turbulence of the water as well as its temperature.

The submersible yellow submarine-like robot Icefin is capable of navigating the sub-zero waters and was fed through one borehole to study how the glacier is melting.

Turbulence causes fresh meltwater from the glacier to mix with salty water from the ocean.

'There are a few places where you can see streams of particles coming off the glaciers, textures and particles that tell us it's melting pretty quickly and irregularly'.

"We designed Icefin so that there was finally access to glacier grounding zones where observations were nearly impossible, but where change was rapid", said Britney Schmidt, senior scientist for Icefin and associate professor at the School of Earth in Georgia Tech and atmospheric science said in a statement.

The team, Melting at Thwaites, let the Icefin swim over a mile to the grounding zone and took measurements as well as understood the temperatures and the changing landscape in Antarctica.

It marks the first time that the ocean cavity at the Thwaites Glacier grounding zone has been accessed through a bore hole and that a scientific instrument measuring underlying ocean turbulence and mixing has been deployed at that site.

The scientists revealed that the global sea level would increase by over 10 feet above the current level if the glacier melts completely. This is known to be an unstable configuration for a glacier because as the ocean continues to eat away at its base, the glacier becomes thicker, so more ice is exposed to the ocean. "This new data will provide a new perspective on the processes taking place so that we can predict future changes with more certainty", said Keith Nicholls, an oceanographer from the British Antarctic Survey.

Other reports by iNewsToday