Scientists are warning of dramatic changes at one of the biggest glaciers in Antarctica, potentially within the next five to 10 years.
They say a floating section at the front of Thwaites Glacier that until now has been relatively stable could “shatter like a car windscreen”.
US and UK researchers are currently engaged in an intense study programme at Thwaites because of its melt rate.
Already it is dumping 50 billion tonnes of ice into the ocean each year.
This is having limited impact on global sea-levels today, but there is sufficient ice held upstream in the glacier’s drainage basin to raise the height of the oceans by 65cm – were it all to melt.
Such a “doomsday” scenario is unlikely to come about for many centuries, but the study team says Thwaites is now responding to a warming world in really quite rapid ways.