NASA believes the cavity is big enough to have contained 14billion tons of ice, most of which melted only in the last three years.
Now, a stunning new void has been revealed amidst this massive vanishing act, and it's a big one: a enormous cavity growing under West Antarctica that scientists say covers two-thirds the footprint of Manhattan and stands nearly 300 metres (984 ft) tall.
By observing the undersides of Antarctic glaciers, researchers hope to calculate how fast global sea levels will rise in response to climate change.
These conclusions come from a new study that marshals improved data sets and was published this month in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. With climate change likely to continue accelerating this melt, the implications for global sea level rise are considerable. It is now responsible for approximately 4 percent of global sea level rise and holds enough ice to raise the world ocean a little over 2 feet.
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Once gone, surrounding glaciers will have no obstacle in their path, speeding up their melting and the potential release of enough water to raise sea levels by as much as 2.4m.
Changes in surface height at Thwaites Glacier's grounding line. On top of the usual story of thinning ice, they found a enormous cavity - perhaps the size of the Eiffel Tower - growing at the bottom of the vast glacier. They used NASA's ice-penetrating radar to get their data. In essence, this means that the glacier at this spot is exposed to the ebb and flow of the tide, which causes the ice at the grounding line to retreat and advance across a region that's about 2 to 3 miles (3 to 5 km) long.
Despite this high rate of retreat, melt rates are still higher on the western side, where the void is located. In that region, the rate of grounding-line retreat doubled from about 0.4 miles (0.6 kilometers) a year from 1992 to 2011 to 0.8 miles (1.2 kilometers) a year from 2011 to 2017.
Milillo told weather.com that the discovery was also surprising because "it highlights that ice-ocean interactions are more complex than previously understood".
"Understanding the details of how the ocean melts away this glacier is essential to project its impact on sea level rise in the coming decades", Rignot said.