Giant Void Hidden Under Antarctica’s Ice Threatens Vast Glacier

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The hollow space that has taken 14 billion tons of ice, is located under the Thwaites glacier in West Antarctica.

It is noted that the Thwaites glacier in West Antarctica is known for its rapid movement, the speed of which sometimes reaches two miles a year.

The cavern sits where almost 14 billion tons of ice used to be, all of which melted in the last few years. 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. The bedrock under Thwaites and other glaciers in the region slopes downward further inland, allowing that warm water to rot out the glaciers from underneath.

However, the researchers say that the size and growth rate of the hole surprised them.

Scientists spotted the concealed void thanks to a new generation of satellites, Rignot noted.

The data comes from NASA's Operation IceBridge, a program that flies radar-equipped planes over the poles to map out glaciers and ice sheets in three dimensions.

Lead author Pietro Milillo of JPL says the size of the cavity under the glacier "plays an important role in melting".

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Scientists say that this is a very important find because the bigger the hole is, the more heat and water can get under the glacier, thereby melting it faster.

Even with this accelerating retreat, however, melt rates on this side of the glacier are lower than on the western side, they said.

Thwaites Glacier is now responsible for about four per cent of global sea level rise, researchers said.

"We are discovering different mechanisms of retreat", Millilo said. This summer, the U.S. National Science Foundation and the British Natural Environmental Research Council are launching the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration, a five-year field project that aims to get to the bottom of the glacier's processes and features. Could you imagine how fingers under the glacier, to him from below to melt.

There's no way to monitor Antarctic glaciers from ground level over the long term.

In the part of the Thwaites Glacier where the cavity has been detected, the scientists have observed a "complex pattern of retreat and ice melt" with parts of the glacier retreating about 2,625 feet per year. He would melt completely would be a sea level rise of 65 cm.

"The researchers on the current study hope that these new results will help inform that team's work", the news portal continued. 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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