Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Thwaites glacier at mercy of sea warmth increase


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Thwaites Glacier

Mains level: Sea Level rise


The new research suggests that even low amounts of melting can potentially push Thwaites glacier further along the path toward eventual disappearance.

Thwaites Glacier

  • Called the Thwaites Glacier, it is 120 km wide at its broadest, fast-moving, and melting fast over the years.
  • Because of its size (1.9 lakh square km), it contains enough water to raise the world sea level by more than half a meter.
  • Studies have found the amount of ice flowing out of it has nearly doubled over the past 30 years.
  • Thwaites’s melting already contributes 4% to global sea-level rise each year. It is estimated that it would collapse into the sea in 200-900 years.
  • Thwaites is important for Antarctica as it slows the ice behind it from freely flowing into the ocean. Because of the risk it faces — and poses — Thwaites is often called the Doomsday Glacier.

How is Thwaites glacier melting?


  • Thwaites Glacier is melting due to a combination of warming ocean currents and a weakening of the ice shelf that acts as a barrier between the glacier and the ocean.
  • The cause of the melting is thought to be the influx of relatively warm bottom water drawn in from the wider ocean.
  • In the 1990s it was losing just over 10 billion tonnes of ice a year. Today, it’s more like 80 billion tonnes.

Why is this glacier so important?

  • Huge size: Flowing off the west of the Antarctic continent, Thwaites is almost as big as Great Britain.   It is one of the largest and most important glaciers in Antarctica, as it acts as a gateway to a vast area of the continent.
  • Melting faster: It’s a majestic sight, with its buoyant front, or “ice shelf”, pushing far out to sea and kicking off huge icebergs. But satellite monitoring indicates this glacier is melting at an accelerating rate.
  • Seal level rise: Thwaites’ ice loss contributes approximately 4% to the annual rise in global sea-levels, with the potential to add 65cm in total should the whole glacier collapse.  Its melting could also destabilize the entire West Antarctic Ice Sheet, leading to a further rise in sea levels.


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