Huge hole in Antarctic glacier signals rapid decay

Gigantic cavity in Antarctic glacier signals rapid decay

Image courtesy Reuters

"As more heat and water get under the glacier, it melts faster", said Pietro Milillo of JPL.

A big cavity - two-thirds the area of Manhattan and nearly 1,000 feet (300 meters) tall - growing at the bottom of Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica is one of several disturbing discoveries reported in a new NASA-led study of the disintegrating glacier. However, huge quantities of this colossal ice cube have melted away over the past three years as a result of climate change, contributing to around 4 percent of global sea level rise.

Researchers were shocked when they discovered how much ice had been lost already, expecting to find much smaller gaps.

The cavernous apocalypse ice cave melted over the last three years and once contained up to 14 billion tons of ice. He is a co-author of the new study, which was published in Science Advances. "Thanks to a new generation of satellites, we can finally see the detail", he said.

The agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory used ice-penetrating radar to explore the area beneath the Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica, often called "one of the world's most unsafe glaciers" because its melting could significantly contribute to sea level rise. Researchers combined the NASA data with data from Italian and German spaceborne synthetic aperture radars. Should Thwaites and other neighboring glaciers melt, sea levels would rise up to 10 feet, according to the press release. The Thwaites Glacier is not the easiest place on Earth to reach. Since 2010, Nasa satellites observe the glacier with a high-resolution Radar.

The collapse of the Thwaites Glacier would cause an increase of global sea level of between one and two metres, with the potential for more than twice that from the entire West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

The Thwaites Glacier from West Antarctica has about 182,000 square km.

In the words of NASA, "several disturbing discoveries" have been brought up by their research survey of the colossal Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica.

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

In this Region has doubled the speed of the glacier line pulls back - of 0.6 kilometers per year in the period 1992 to 2011 to 1.2 kilometers per year between 2011 and 2017. The fastest retreat of floating ice is about a half mile a year with various areas thinning at up to 650 feet per year. 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.

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