Science

Hole two-thirds size of Manhattan found in Antarctic glacier

Hole two-thirds size of Manhattan found in Antarctic glacier

The discovery of cavity beneath Thwaites Glacier along with a number of other disconcerting features offer a new wrinkle to the harrowing tale of West Antarctica.

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.

Researchers were shocked when they discovered how much ice had been lost already, expecting to find much smaller gaps. The water level in the oceans will rise, which will allow offshore glaciers of Antarctica to break away from the ground, turning just in glaciers. "Thanks to a new generation of satellites, we can finally see the detail", he said.

Lead author Pietro Milillo of JPL says the size of the cavity under the glacier "plays an important role in melting". The common thread among them is the infiltration of relatively warm ocean water below the ice, thinning it and causing the glaciers to flow out to sea faster. NASA has found disturbing things about the state of the glacier.

Much of that ice disappeared at an "explosive rate", scientists reported-likely melting only in the last three years.

This would inundate coastal cities like NY, which could probably cope with the changes if they were gradual but would be seriously and potentially mortally damaged if sea levels rose too quickly for engineers to mount a response. He would melt completely would be a sea level rise of 65 cm.

That's important to know, since Thwaites now accounts for about 4 percent of global sea level rise. Rather, researchers utilize satellite or airborne instrument information to watch includes that change as an ice sheet liquefies, for example, its stream speed and surface stature.




The US National Science Foundation and British National Environmental Research Council have initiated a five-year field project, The International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration.

The Thwaites glacier is slightly smaller than the total size of the United Kingdom, approximately the same size as the state of Washington, and is located in the Amundsen Sea.

Thwaites is one of the hardest places to reach on Earth, but it is about to become better known than ever before.

For Thwaites, "We are discovering different mechanisms of retreat", Millilo said.

Different processes at various parts of the 160-kilometre-long front of the glacier are putting the rates of grounding-line retreat and of ice loss out of sync, NASA said. This data also shed some light on another concern about the glacier's grounding line, the point at which the glacier starts to depart from land and float on the sea.

The complex pattern the new readings reveal - which don't fit with current ice sheet or ocean models - suggest scientists have more to learn about how water and ice interact with one another in the frigid but warming Antarctic environment.