'Dangerous' Antarctic glacier has massive hole, scientists warn

'Dangerous' Antarctic glacier has massive hole, scientists warn

The huge hole - measuring nearly 1,000 feet (300 meters) tall - was found growing at an "explosive rate" at the bottom of a glacier in West Antarctica, said NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in a statement Wednesday.

When this happens, the grounding line retreats inland, exposing more of a glacier's underside to sea water, increasing the likelihood its melt rate will accelerate.

A cavity two-thirds the size of Manhattan and almost 1,000 feet tall is growing beneath Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances.

The Thwaites glacier, about the size of the US state of Florida, and now account for about four percent of the global sea-level rise is responsible. It's big enough to contain 14 billion tons of ice, most of which has melted over the last three years.

"We have suspected for years that Thwaites was not tightly attached to the bedrock beneath it", study author Rignot said in a NASA statement.

As reported in the journal Science Advances, researchers have gained a clearer picture of the glacier's plight.

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There's a giant void hiding under the Antarctic ice, and it's growing larger and more menacing by the day, a new study using satellite data finds.

Thwaites holds enough ice to raise the world ocean a little over two feet. It is approximately the size of Florida and is responsible for 4 percent of all global sea level rise.

Instead, the team used airborne and satellite ice-penetrating radars to reveal the cavity.

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. 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.

"(The size of) a cavity under a glacier plays an important role in melting.

In the words of NASA, "several disturbing discoveries" have been brought up by their research survey of the colossal Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica. The glacier has retreated at a steady rate of about 0.4 to 0.5 miles (0.6 to 0.8 km) annually since 1992, the researchers found. Most models of the Thwaites glacier don't take into account rapid cavern forming, so the entire glacier is likely to be melting much faster than our predictions estimate. "The withdrawal of the basic line is one of many small water channels", says Milillo.

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