( from BBC News)
It is going to be one of the biggest projects ever undertaken in Antarctica.
UK and US scientists will lead a five-year effort to examine the stability of the mighty Thwaites Glacier.
This ice stream in the west of the continent is comparable in size to Britain. It is melting and is currently in rapid retreat, accounting for around 4% of global sea-level rise – an amount that has doubled since the mid-1990s.
Researchers want to know if Thwaites could collapse.
Were it to do so, its lost ice would push up the oceans by 80cm or more.
Some computer models have suggested such an outcome is inevitable if conditions continue as they are – albeit on a timescale of centuries. But these simulations need to be anchored in many more real-world observations, which will now be acquired thanks to the joint initiative announced on Monday.
“There is still a question in my view as to whether Thwaites has actually entered an irreversible retreat,” said Prof David Vaughan, the director of science at the British Antarctic Survey.
“It assumes the melt rates we see today continue into the future and that’s not guaranteed. Thwaites is clearly on the verge of an irreversible retreat, but to be sure we need 10 years more data,” he told BBC News.