Scientists at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany have found a vulnerable spot under one of the fastest melting Antarctic glaciers. It turned out that the foot of the Tuyatsa glacier, located at the bottom of the sea, is heated by a geothermal flow. This was reported in an article published in Communications Earth & Environment magazine.
The melting of the Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica, which is considered the most dangerous in the world, accounts for about four percent of global sea level rise. Scientists believe that the proportion may increase, as this glacier is one of the most volatile. In many places it rests on the seabed and is in contact with warm water masses. The researchers found that a large amount of heat is coming from the bowels of the Earth under the ice, which is likely to affect the sliding of the ice masses for millions of years.
The geothermal heat flow beneath the Thwaites Glacier, in turn, is related to the fact that the glacier lies in a tectonic depression, where the earth's crust is significantly thinner than, for example, in neighboring East Antarctica. The thickness of the earth's crust is only 17-25 kilometers, and as a result, most of the bottom is 1-2 kilometers below sea level. Analysis has shown that geothermal heat flux of up to 150 milliwatts per square meter can occur under the Thwaites Glacier.
So far, geophysicists cannot determine to what extent the growing geothermal heat is heating the bottom of the glacier. Heat flow can be a kind of "bomb" that will accelerate ice loss and sea level rise in the future.