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John Moore, a glaciologist and professor at the Arctic Center, says that if the world were to immediately stop greenhouse-gas emissions for climate change and heating water under ice sheets, it would do nothing to thicken and restore the crumbling thrush of thwits. At the University of Lapland in Finland.
“So the only way to prevent a fall … is to physically freeze the ice sheet,” he says.
It requires active defense, radical adaptation, or what is described as glacier geoengineering.
Moore and others have suggested possible ways in which people could intervene to save major glaciers. Some plans will include the construction of artificial brackets by polar megaprojects, or the installation of other structures that will force nature to restore existing ones. The basic idea is that a handful of engineering efforts at the source of the problem can significantly reduce property damage and flood risks that basically every coastal city and low-lying island nation will face, as well as reduce the cost of adaptation projects. Make them smaller.
If it works, it could potentially save crucial ice sheets for several more centuries, buying up time to reduce emissions and stabilize the climate, researchers say.
But there will be huge logistical, engineering, legal and financial challenges. And it is not yet clear how effective the intervention will be, or whether it will be done before some of the largest glaciers are lost.
Redirecting hot water
In articles and papers published in 2018, Moore, Michael Volovic of Princeton, and others demonstrated the potential for the preservation of complex glaciers, including thwits, through massive earth-moving projects. This will involve the shipping or dredging of large quantities of material to create burms or artificial islands around or under major glaciers. The structures will support glaciers and ice shelves, blocking the warm, dense water levels at the bottom of the ocean that are melting them from below or both.
More recently, he and researchers affiliated with the University of British Columbia have come up with a more technical concept: the construction of what they call “anchor curtains at the bottom of the sea.” These will be noble flexible sheets made from geotextile materials, which can hold and redirect hot water.
Hopefully this proposal will be cheaper than before, and these curtains will survive the iceberg collision and can be removed if there are negative side effects. Researchers have modeled the use of these formations around three glaciers in Greenland, as well as around the Thwaites and nearby Pine Island glaciers.