Those rising sea levels won’t just affect the remote areas where the glaciers are melting. Communities up and down the world’s coasts would have to contend with the extra water pouring into the ocean.


“Warm waters in this part of the world, as remote as they may seem, should serve as a warning to all of us about the potential dire changes to the planet brought about by climate change,” said Holland.

The Thwaites Glacier spans 74,000 square miles, which is roughly the size of Florida, and it already contributes to four percent of global sea level rise. If it collapses, Thwaites alone would drain enough ice from the West Antarctic to raise global sea levels almost three feet.


But the effects could be even worse than that. Thwaites and another large glacier, the Pine Island Glacier, act as a brake on part of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Pine Island has a similar setup to Thwaites with bedrock sloping downward under the ice and warm water swirling beneath it. If they both melt, huge amounts of ice could break off and flow into the sea. That would cause the oceans to rise up to 10 feet, drowning many coastal cities.

It’s not clear exactly how fast the Thwaites will melt, but it is clear that the climate crisis is accelerating the process. And that’s dangerous for many parts of the world because what happens in Antarctica doesn’t stay in Antarctica.