An Enormous Void is Forming Beneath the Antarctic Ice

The Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica is seen in this undated NASA image. Vast glaciers in West Antarctica seem to be locked in an irreversible thaw linked to global warming that may push up sea levels for centuries scientists said

The Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica is seen in this undated NASA image. Image Reuters

A glacier described as the "world's most dangerous" is showing worrying signs of collapse, after scientists found an 1,000ft tall cavity growing beneath the ice.

The satellites revealed that the enormous void is hiding under the glacier's western side, the one farther away from the West Antarctic Peninsula, the researchers said.

Researchers say the cavity would once have been large enough to hold some 14 billion tonnes of ice.

The glacier holds "enough ice to raise the world ocean level a little over 2 feet (65 centimeters)", said the team. At the beginning of the study, the researchers therefore assume that you would find on a glacier at the end of some of the gaps between the ice and the surface, according to Nasa, in a statement.

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Worse, Thwaites Glacier acts as a kind of "door stop", preventing adjoining glaciers from sliding towards the sea.

Yet the vast size and fast-moving growth rate of the hole in Thwaites was called both "disturbing" and "surprising" by researchers. "As more heat and water get under the glacier, it melts faster", Milillo explained. NASA has found disturbing things about the state of the glacier. Thwaites Glacier, among the most threatened hunks of ice on the continent, is in even more dire straits than previously reported. The findings highlight the need for detailed observations of Antarctic glaciers' undersides in calculating how fast global sea levels will rise in response to climate change. Immediately, we'd get about 2 feet of sea level rise. A radar was used to peer through the ice to see to the bottom of the glacier.

Thwaites glacier is one of the most hard places on Earth to reach. 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.

Last year, the National Science Foundation and Britain's Natural Environment Research Council launched a joint programme called the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration to study the unstable glacier and its role in sea levels.

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In other words, there's a good chance we could be looking at some serious melting in the near future, thanks to this glacier and the ice around it.

"We are discovering different mechanisms of retreat, ' Mr Milillo said".

Different processes at various parts of the 160-kilometre-long front of the glacier are putting the rates of grounding-line retreat and of ice loss out of sync, NASA said. It could also lead to melting in neighboring glaciers that could add another 8 feet to sea levels if they completely melted, JPL said.

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