Ice melting faster in Antarctic glacier, vast hole surprises NASA scientists


A massive hole two-thirds the size of Manhattan was just discovered in what is dubbed as the "most unsafe glacier in the world".

The scientists have discovered a massive cavity roughly two-thirds the size of Manhattan beneath a glacier in Antarctica.

The NASA-led team were surprised by the size of the cavity, which once contained 14 billion tons of ice.

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

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

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

NASA's Operation IceBridge, launched in 2010, uses ice-penetrating radar to measure the rate of melting in some of the most remote and inhospitable regions in the world.

These very high-resolution data can be processed by a technique called radar interferometry to reveal how the ground surface below has moved between images.

"There's more heat and water under the glacier, melting it faster", says Pietro Milillo from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of Nasa in Pasadena.

The end of the glacier, where the cavity has been formed, is particularly sensitive, because of warmer sea encroachment of water to the ice and it can melt from below. With climate change likely to continue accelerating this melt, the implications for global sea level rise are considerable.

Understanding the unstable glacier is important for future predictions about sea level rise.

NASA has recently revealed the existence of an unknown yawning cavity, that's placed at the bottom of the Thwaites Glacier.

The researchers say the Florida-sized cavity under the glacier highlights the need for more detailed observations of Antarctic glaciers to better understand just how fast sea levels will rise as a result of climate change, according to a press release. Researchers estimate the ice melted in the space of just three years.

The glacier has been coming unstuck from a ridge in the bedrock at a steady rate of about 0.6 to 0.8 kilometers a year since 1992.

It's feared the melting of "the world's most risky glacier" could cause catastrophic flooding across the planet.

These findings show the complexity of ice-ocean interactions.

NASA reported that Thwaites Glacier is now responsible for approximately 4 percent of global sea level rise.

In the words of NASA, "several disturbing discoveries" have been brought up by their research survey of the colossal Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica. "Such data is essential for field parties to focus on areas where the action is, because the grounding line is retreating rapidly with complex spatial patterns", he said.