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Why The Cork Glacier Worries Scientists

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A team of researchers has prepared to study the Thwaites Glacier. Armed with the latest equipment, they aim to gather more data to support their claims that the cork glaciers are at risk.  ( Rodrigo Aranguan/AFP | Getty Images )

The threat of rising sea levels is a serious matter as scientists from the United States and the U.K. investigate the importance of the cork glacier.

It looks like the threat potentially comes from the Thwaites Glacier, which is one of the massive glaciers located in Antarctica. Experts all over the world are aware that global warming is the true culprit behind the melting ice. However, it appears that glaciers down south is also a big contributor to cause the sea levels to rise.

The elite team of around 100 scientists will be backed by an estimated $27.5 million. They are also equipped with the newest instruments and gear to help them conduct their research and survive the harsh climate.

Why It Is Important

Based on the existing data pertaining to the ice formation located in West Antarctica, the glacier reportedly acts like cork along with others of its kind. Together, it supposedly holds back the bigger ice masses of the ice sheet in West Antarctica.

Unfortunately, the researchers claim that most of the cork glaciers found in that area have rapidly melted over the past few years. Its importance is further supported by the 4 percent rise in sea levels in recent years, which is being attributed to the melted ice that streamed back into the ocean.

It is alarming since the amount apparently doubled from its output recorded sometime in the mid-1990s.

Studying The Impact Of Melting Landlocked Ice

Scientists have already determined that floating ice masses are not as threatening as landlocked formations. The drifting ice on the ocean does not directly contribute to rising sea levels due to the volume of water it already displaced equal to its own weight. It can be illustrated by a simple experiment wherein a melting ice cube does not cause a full glass to overflow.

However, landlocked ice like the Thwaites Glacier functions as a cork that stops melted ice from flowing into the ocean. Unlike floating ice formations, water originating from the larger masses of ice on land introduces more water that raises the overall sea level worldwide.

Preparing For The Worst

The purpose of the study on the Thwaites Glacier is to determine how quickly the sea levels will rise. Moreover, if the so-called cork glaciers falter, it could mean that large quantities of melted ice will immediately flow into the ocean.

"Satellites show that the Thwaites region is changing rapidly, but to answer the key questions of how much, and how quickly sea level will change in the future requires scientists on the ground with sophisticated equipment," explained William Easterling of the NSF.

It's quite obvious that scientists want to remove much of the guesswork to properly prepare for the real threat of rising sea levels.

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