The massive Totten Glacier is one of the largest in East Antarctica and is reported to be in a danger of melting. Scientists warn that if this happens, the sea levels will rise by more than 3.5 meters and will flood many coastal cities.
Totten is one of the largest glaciers which lie within the East Antarctica Ice Sheet. It is said to be one of the most massive single mass of ice in the world. The ice chunk is melting at an alarming rate, and with the global temperatures being at an all time high, this is another piece of bad news for scientists who are following the after effects of global warming.
The unusually warm oceanic water is flooding the underbelly or the base of the glacier at a rate of 220,000 cubic meters per second. It will precipitate a massive shedding of 80 billion tons of ice per year. By destroying the mass of ice on the fringes of the icy continent, the huge mass of ice behind them is exposed to the vagaries of global warming and allowing them to break up and flow freely into the ocean. The catchment area of the icy glacier is equal to the size of Spain, and if this falls into the ocean, it will increase the global sea levels by about 11.5 feet. It will have disastrous consequences for people residing on islands and coastal regions.
A team of researchers affiliated with the University of Tasmania and the University of Texas at Austin drove their research vessel into the crevasses carved out by the sea. They were even able to sneak beneath the Totten Glacier to see the extent of damage caused by warm ocean waters. Totten is slowly eroded below by the warm ocean waters, and it will cause the whole structure to crumble and fall into the sea shortly.
The Totten Glacier is resting on a solid rocky bed which is smooth at most of the places but dramatically slopes at places. If the underbelly is eroded to the place where it is resting on a slope, the melting of the glacier will be hastened, and the whole ice mass can crumble ad fall into the sea. The last time such a scenario happened was almost 400 million years ago when the global temperatures were similar to present day levels.