Enormous cavity under Antartic glacier indicates surge in rising sea levels

Enormous cavity under Antartic glacier indicates surge in rising sea levels

Enormous cavity under Antartic glacier indicates surge in rising sea levels

It was a disturbing discovery, said Nasa. This water then pooled between the ice and rock, eroding away the glacier above.

"The size of a cavity under a glacier plays an important role in melting", lead author Pietro Milillo said in a statement. "On the eastern side of the glacier, the grounding-line retreat proceeds through small channels, maybe a kilometer wide, like fingers reaching beneath the glacier to melt it from below", Milillo said.

This means the mass of ice - about the size of Florida - can break up and slip into the sea, much faster than projected.

The Thwaites Glacier actually holds in neighbouring glaciers and ice masses further inland. Previous numerical models for the melting of the glacier used a fixed shape to represent a cavity under the ice and didn't allow for the cavity to change shape or grow. Instead, it could potentially spell doom for not just Manhattan but other coastal areas by speeding along the destruction of Thwaites, pushing more land ice into the sea. It seems to not only be melting on the ocean edges, but also from underneath, and warmer ocean waters are infiltrating. Click on "Water Level", to change the sea level.

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And Antarctica is an enormous, ice-covered continent. It is now responsible for 4 percent of global sea level rise and possibly even more.

"We have suspected for years that Thwaites was not tightly attached to the bedrock beneath it", co-author Eric Rignot of the University of California, Irvine, and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a press release.

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

What they'll find remains to be seen, but it's inarguably among the most important scientific research being conducted in the world right now. It will begin its field observations later this year. (One gigaton is a billion tons.) All that ice dumped into the ocean has raised global sea levels by 14 millimeters since 1979, according to the study.

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There's no real way to screen Antarctic glaciers from ground level over the long haul.

The Thwaites glacier has experienced significant flow acceleration since the 1970s.

Annual ice discharge from this region as a whole has increased 77 per cent since 1973.

CBS News climate and weather contributor Jeff Berardelli reports that the cavity is likely a significant finding because the West Antarctic ice sheet is considered one of the most unstable and vulnerable.

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The gaping hole in the ice has a footprint two-thirds the size of Manhattan and is tall enough to fit the Statue of Liberty three times over.

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