A Radical Intervention That Could Save the Doomsday Glacier

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Even if the world immediately stops greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change and warming waters under the ice shelf, it will do nothing to thicken and stabilize the Thwaite’s critical foothold, says John Moore, glaciologist and professor at the Arctic Center. at the University of Lapland in Finland.

“So the only way to prevent collapse … is to physically stabilize the ice sheets,” he says.

This will require what is variously called active conservation. radical adaptationor glacial geoengineering.

Moore and others have outlined several ways people can intervene to save key glaciers. Some of the schemes include the construction of artificial pillars as part of the polar megaprojects, or the installation of other structures that will push nature to restore existing ones. The basic idea is that a small amount of engineering work to address the source of a problem can greatly reduce the property damage and flooding hazard that virtually every coastal city and lowland island nation will face, as well as the costs of adaptation projects needed to minimize them. .

If it works, the researchers say it could potentially preserve important ice sheets for several more centuries, buying time to reduce emissions and stabilize the climate.

But there will be serious logistical, engineering, legal and financial problems. And it is not yet clear how effective interventions will be and whether they can be carried out before some of the largest glaciers disappear.

Redirection of heating waters

V articles and documentation published in 2018, Moore, Princeton’s Michael Wolowik, and others outlined the possibility of saving critical glaciers, including the Thwaites Glaciers, through massive earthworks. This will involve bringing in or excavating large quantities of material to create berms or artificial islands around or under key glaciers. The structures will support glaciers and ice shelves, block warm, dense layers of water on the ocean floor that melt them from below, or both.

More recently, they researchers staff at the University of British Columbia explored a more technical concept: creating what they called “curtains tied to the seabed“. These will be floating, flexible geotextile sheets that can hold and redirect warm water.

It is hoped that this proposal will be cheaper than previous ones, and that these curtains will withstand iceberg collisions and can be removed if there are negative side effects. The researchers modeled the use of these structures around three glaciers in Greenland, as well as on the Thwaites Glaciers and nearby Pine Island Glaciers.

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