Antarctica: when the collapse of ice blocks causes double tsunamis

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A new phenomenon: couple tsunamis in Antarctica

The fall of glacial masses in Antarctica generates a double tsunami phenomenon, one on the surface and another, more insidious, in the abyss. The repercussions of these events are considerable, particularly in terms of the regulation of marine temperatures and the impact on the local ecosystem.

The birth of the twin tsunamis

There is now evidence that collapsing glaciers in southern waters generate powerful underwater ripples similar to tsunamis. However, recent observations go further: not only does one tidal wave strike the upper layer, but a second occurs at depth. In fact, these turbulent “twins” manage to redistribute maritime currents and thermal masses.
The textbook case occurred when British experts were sailing near the Antarctic Peninsula at the beginning of 2020. A gigantic portion of the William Glacier broke away before their eyes. On this occasion, satellites from the Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission immortalized the fragmentation and subsequent movements, revealing an icy fragment equivalent to around ten football fields. It should be noted that the William Glacier had already retreated by three kilometers since the middle of the 20th century.

The consequences of a double impact

The detection of this second deep wave could be carried out using specialized sensors. The interest in this discovery goes beyond scientific curiosity; it influences the understanding of climate systems. The emerging chaos of this wave modifies the distribution of biodiversity by mixing the thermal layers and the nutrients associated with them.
Before this upheaval, the deep waters presented a thermal gradient, with cold layers overlying warmer strata. After the event, the homogenization of temperatures was noticed, thus disrupting the ecosystem.

Implications for climate models

Usually, water mixing is caused by forces such as winds or tides. However, this sudden upheaval caused by the collapse of the glaciers is reminiscent of the upheavals observed during earthquakes or landslides. At this time, this dynamic is not integrated into climate forecast models.
So far limited to Antarctica, this phenomenon could also occur in the Arctic or Greenland. Taking it into account promises to refine climate prediction, particularly regarding sea level rise, future marine communities and global warming in general.
This is an additional component that forecast models will now have to integrate to refine their projections. In short, the analysis of these tsunamis following glacial collapses is essential to anticipate the future of our oceans.
It is essential to continue observing these double tsunamis to better understand their significance in the complex equation of global warming.

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