Antarctica is not in a good place. Within just decades, the continent has lost trillions of tons of ice at alarming rates that we can not match, even in places we once thought were safe.
In the midst of this massive disappearance, an amazing new void has now been uncovered, and it's a huge one: a gigantic hollow growing beneath West Antarctic that scientists claim to make up two-thirds of Manhattan's footprints and nearly 300 feet high is) tall.
This huge opening at the end of the Thwaites Glacier – a mass called the "most dangerous glacier in the world" is so large that it represents an open piece of the estimated 252 billion tons of ice that the Antarctic loses to everyone [1
Researchers say the cavity would have once been large enough to contain some 14 to keep billions of tons of ice. Even more worryingly, the researchers have largely lost the volume of ice in the past three years alone.
"We have suspected for years that Thwaites was not firmly attached to the subsurface," says glaciologist Eric Rignot of the University of California, Irvine and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.
"Thanks to a new generation of satellites, we can finally see the detail."
Rignot and his colleagues discovered the cavity with ice penetration radar as part of NASA's Operation IceBridge, with additional data from German and French scientists.
According to the information, the hidden void is just one ice patient under a "complex retreat and ice melt pattern" on the Thwaites Glacier, whose sectors each retreat by up to 800 meters
The complex pattern, the The new measurements, which are not consistent with current ice-sheet or marine models, suggest that scientists need to know more about how water and ice interact in the cold but warming Antarctic environment. 19659003] "We are discovering different mechanisms of retreat," explains the first author of the new paper, JPL radar scientist Pietro Milillo.
While researchers are still finding out about the complex Learning How Ice Melts at Thwaite Glacier The huge cavity in its most basic form represents a simple (albeit unfortunate) science of reality
"[The size of] A cavity beneath a glacier plays an important role in melting" says Milillo.
"The more heat and water get under the glacier, it melts faster."
That's important to know, as Thwaites currently accounts for about 4 percent of global sea-level rise.
If it had completely disappeared, glacial ice could raise the ocean by an estimated 65 centimeters. But that's not even the worst scenario.
The Thwaites Glacier actually stops at neighboring glaciers and ice masses further inland. If its supportive power had disappeared, the consequences could be unthinkable, which is why it is seen in the Antarctic landscape as a crucial natural structure.
No one knows how long it will be left, why scientists are now on a major expedition to learn more about Thwaites.
What they will find remains to be seen, but it is undoubtedly one of the most important scientific researches currently being undertaken in the world.
As New York University geoscientist David Holland was not involved in the current study, the Washington Post reported last year: "For the global sea-level change in the next century, this Thwaites glacier is almost the whole story."
The results are reported in Science Advances .