An Enormous Void is Forming Beneath the Antarctic Ice

An Enormous Void is Forming Beneath the Antarctic Ice

A massive hole two-thirds the size of Manhattan was just discovered in what is dubbed as the "most unsafe glacier in the world".

NASA has confirmed that a huge cavity - two-thirds the size of Manhattan and nearly 1,000 feet tall - is growing at the bottom of Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica. They found a cavity 1,000-feet tall that was "big enough to have contained 14 billion tons of ice-and most of that ice melted over the last three years".

If the entire glacier would melt the level of the sea would rise by approximately 2 feet or 65 centimeters. It is growing at an "explosive" rate that surprised researchers conducting a study the agency led on the glacier.

These very high-resolution data can be processed by a technique called radar interferometry to reveal how the ground surface below has moved between images.

Eric Rignot, who's a researcher at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory said that they have expected this to happen to Thwaites for years and that, thanks to the new gen of satellites, they're not able to see all the details they need.

Thwaites Glacier alone holds enough ice above sea level to raise sea levels by more than 65cm if it was to melt. With climate change likely to continue accelerating this melt, the implications for global sea level rise are considerable.

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This huge opening at the bottom of the Thwaites Glacier - a mass infamously dubbed the "most unsafe glacier in the world" - is so big it represents an overt chunk of the estimated 252 billion tonnes of ice Antarctica loses every year.

Thwaites Glacier is located in West Antarctica, an area that is facing what could be runaway melt owing to geography and inescapable heat. They used NASA's ice-penetrating radar to get their data. "We are discovering different mechanisms of retreat".

The glacier has been coming unstuck from a ridge in the bedrock at a steady rate of about 0.6 to 0.8 kilometers a year since 1992.

These results highlight that ice-ocean interactions are more complex than previously understood.

The huge cavity was under the main trunk of the glacier on its western side - the side farther from the West Antarctic Peninsula.

The glacier is retreating in the face of the warming ocean and is thought to be unstable because its interior lies more than two kilometres below sea level while, at the coast, the bottom of the glacier is quite shallow. At the same time the ice melts in the area extremely quickly. If those glaciers melted, too, sea levels could increase a whopping 8 feet (2.4 meters), the research team said.

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