Doomsday Glacier

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    Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica (David Vaughan/British Antarctic Survey via AP)
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    Here’s a closer look at the Thwaites Ice Shelf edge as seen on October 16, 2012. The blue areas are denser, compressed ice. ( NASA/James Yungel)
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    This February 2022 satellite image shows research vessels RVIB Nathaniel B. Palmer and the RV Araon on the ice shelf areas extending from Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica. “EIS” indicates the Eastern Ice Shelf. (AP)
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    This 2019 photo shows a hole in Thwaites Glacier. (David Vaughan/British Antarctic Survey via AP)
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    Thwaites Glacier is part of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.
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Scientist David Holland appreciates nature. He even enjoys the stark whiteness of a deserted glacier, with only the sounds of wind and an occasional seagull accompanying it. Holland’s current focus is Antarctica’s giant Doomsday Glacier—specifically, What happens if the whole formation slides into the ocean?

A glacier is a body of thick ice so heavy that the massive crystallized deposit moves under its own weight. God designed glaciers to form wherever snow buildups outpace melting. The process takes many years or even centuries.

At 75 miles across, Thwaites Glacier is one of the largest glaciers in Antarctica. Scientists refer to it as the Doomsday Glacier because they believe it could flood the entire Earth should it collapse or melt entirely.

Christians know that God alone knows the time of Earth’s end—and that He controls the seas and the climate. (Psalm 95:5) So fearing Doomsday—or the Doomsday Glacier—is needless.

Scientists from around the world are part of a multi-year study of Thwaites. What worries them is that the leading edge of Thwaites is breaking apart in many places. Even though total collapse could take hundreds or thousands of years, the edge is falling apart now.

They’d hoped to examine Thwaites for the brief time during which the remote ice is reachable in the December-March Antarctic summer.

But Thwaites thwarted them.

A large iceberg sheared off from the glacier late last year. The iceberg and sea ice blocked two research ships carrying dozens of scientists. Plans haven’t stopped but they are currently on ice (literally).

Holland planned to drill through the Thwaites ice shelf to measure the water temperature below it. He’d hoped to learn about warm ocean water nibbling away at Thwaites from below. Instead, he’s trying to make the best of the situation by studying the nearby Dotson ice shelf.

The ice shelf “is the most important part of Thwaites and it’s protecting itself and hiding from us,” Holland says.

“Nobody can get to Thwaites this year,” Holland says. “We tried to cut through [the ice] for a week. Couldn’t do it.”

Scientists disagree about what could happen if Thwaites collapses entirely. Some surmise it could raise seas around the globe more than two feet. They also disagree about how long such a collapse could take.

Ice scientist Ian Joughin says, “We need to take these glaciers seriously without sounding like Chicken Little.”

Why? God the Creator designed Earth to reflect His glory to its inhabitants. The power of a glacier allows people to see God’s might and creativity—and to remember His control.