Antarctica is not in a good place. In just a few decades, the continent has lost trillions of tons of ice at an alarming rate that we cannot cope with, even in places we once considered safe.
Now, in the midst of this huge disappearing act, a tremendous new void was discovered, and it is large: a giant hollow growing under West Antarctica, which, according to scientists, covers two thirds of Manhattan’s territory and is almost 300 meters (984 feet) high.
This huge hole at the foot of the Thweights Glacier — a mass known as the “most dangerous glacier in the world” —is so large that it is a clear piece of about 252 billion tons of ice that Antarctica loses every year.
Researchers say the cavity would once be large enough to hold about 14 billion tons of ice. Even more disturbing, the researchers say that he has lost most of this amount of ice in just the last three years.
“For many years, we suspected that the Thweights were not tightly attached to the bedrock under it,” said glaciologist Eric Rigno from the University of California, Irvine and the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) in Pasadena, California.
“With the new generation of satellites, we can finally see the details.”
Rigno and fellow researchers discovered the cavity using a radar penetrating the ice as part of NASA's IceBridge operation, with additional data provided by German and French scientists.
According to the testimony, the hidden void is just one ice sacrifice among the "complex retreat and melting ice patterns" that occurs on the Twights Glacier, parts of which retreat by as much as 800 meters (2,625 feet) each year.
The sophisticated pattern that the new readings show — which does not fit into the current models of ice cover or ocean — suggests that scientists should learn more about how water and ice interact with each other in the cold but warm environment of Antarctica.
“We are discovering various retreat mechanisms,” explains the first author of the new article, JPL radar engineer Pietro Milillo.
While researchers are still exploring new things about the complex methods of melting ice on the Tewat Glacier, in its basic form, the giant cavity is a simple (albeit unsuccessful) scientific reality.
"[The size of] the glacier cavity plays an important role in melting, ”says Milillo.
"The more heat and water get under the glacier, the faster it melts."
This is important to know, since currently Tweight accounts for about 4 percent of global sea-level rise.
If it had completely disappeared, the ice held in the glacier could lift the ocean by about 65 centimeters (about 2 feet). But this is not even the worst scenario.
The Thwaites glacier actually holds in the neighboring glaciers and ice masses further inland. If its reinforcing force disappears, the consequences may be unthinkable, so it is considered such a key natural structure in the landscape of the Antarctic.
No one knows how long it will last, so scientists are now going on a major expedition to learn more about Thweits.
What they will find remains to be seen, but this is undoubtedly one of the most important scientific studies being conducted in the world right now.
As New York University geophysicist David Holland, who did not participate in the current study, said The washington post last year: “For a global change in sea level in the next century, this Thweets Glacier is almost the whole story.”
Results are presented in Scientific achievements,