The worst thing is that this ice loss is part of a broader trend: "The entire Antarctic ice sheet is melting almost six times as fast as it did 40 years ago". But their contribution to sea level rise pales in comparison to what we may see now that the Antarctic ice sheet faces a tipping point - a point of no return.
This reportedly makes that Thwaites Glacier a melting time bomb.
The Thwaites Glacier is often called "one of the world's most unsafe glaciers" because of its potential contributions to sea level rise.
Depending on how fast global warming continues and the nature of the glacier's instability, extensive ice loss would start in 600 years according to modeling simulations in the research.
The Thwaites Glacier, which is roughly the size of Florida or Britain, in West Antarctica, is at an unstoppable point now and once the "instability" begins, nothing could prevent the ice from melting, the Nasa-backed study said. "There is nearly eight times as much ice in the Antarctic ice sheet as there is in the Greenland ice sheet and 50 times as much as in all the mountain glaciers in the world", Robel said. At least one, Thwaites Glacier, modeled for the new study, may be in danger of succumbing to this instability, a volatile process that pushes ice into the ocean fast. Even with efforts to stop global warming Robel says "It will keep going by itself and that's the worry".
It's been reported that back in the '80s, Antarctica had lost 40 billion tons of ice on a yearly basis.
If both abruptly collapsed, allowing ice far inland to flow faster into the oceans, world sea levels could rise by more than a metre (three feet), threatening cities from Shanghai to San Francisco and low-lying coastal regions.
"After reaching the tipping point, Thwaites Glacier could lose all of its ice in a period of 150 years". They need more data to drive accurate conclusions.
It's not yet clear whether Thwaites has reached the tipping point or not, but its outer edge is sinking into the ocean faster than previously recorded. Why is Antarctic ice the big driver of sea level rise? However, the current study shows that our current forecasts aren't very reliable.
Dr Robel said: "You want to engineer critical infrastructure to be resistant against the upper bound of potential sea level scenarios a hundred years from now".
The Antarctic ice sheet has more than 50 times the amount of ice than the mountain glaciers in the world combined, and eight times as much ice than the Greenland ice sheet.
Fluctuations in climate and a lack of data make modeling the future of the Antarctic ice shelf especially hard.
Sections of the Thwaite's Glacier are retreating by up to 2,625 feet per year, contributing to 4% of sea-level rise worldwide.
"The system didn't damp out the fluctuations, it actually amplified them". And the ice loss is spreading from the coast into the continent's interior, with as much as 100 meters (328 feet) of ice reduction in some places. While they cannot predict the exact date it will begin to flood the oceans with fresh water, it could happen within the next 150 years. "It depends on the bedrock topography under the ice, and we don't know it in great detail yet".