An enormous cavity has been discovered at the base of the Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica.
The icy monster "backstops neighbouring glaciers that would raise sea levels an additional 8 feet (2.4 metres) if all the ice were lost", Nasa warned.
While researchers are still learning new things about the complex ways ice melts at the Thwaite Glacier, at its most basic, the giant cavity represents a simple (if unfortunate) scientific actuality. "The International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration is preparing to embark on a field study on the ground during the Southern Hemisphere's next summer, in late 2019 and early 2020". The researchers say this is a "disturbing discovery" that shows the "explosive" rate at which ice is melting on the planet's southernmost continent.
"We have suspected for years that Thwaites was not tightly attached to the bedrock beneath it", said Eric Rignot of the University of California, Irvine, and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
"Thanks to a new generation of satellites, we can finally see the detail". They used NASA's ice-penetrating radar to get their data.
"[The size of] a cavity under a glacier plays an important role in melting", study lead researcher Pietro Milillo, a scientist at the Radar Science and Engineering Section at JPL, said in the statement.
It seems that scientist will be able to learn more about the interaction between water and ice as new mechanisms of retreat were also spotted.
According to a study by NASA, the void was caused by newly discovered "fingers" of warm water flowing into cracks in the glacier caused by mounting climate change.
Thwaites Glacier is now responsible for about four per cent of global sea level rise, researchers said.
This would inundate coastal cities like NY, which could probably cope with the changes if they were gradual but would be seriously and potentially mortally damaged if sea levels rose too quickly for engineers to mount a response.
Thwaites has been described as one of the world's most risky glaciers because its demise could lead to rapid changes in global sea levels. The Rock under the glacier is much deeper than the level of the sea.
The US National Science Foundation and British National Environmental Research Council are beginning a five-year field project to answer the most critical questions about its processes and features.
The glacier is retreating in the face of the warming ocean and is thought to be unstable because its interior lies more than two kilometres below sea level while, at the coast, the bottom of the glacier is quite shallow. In this locale, as the tide rises and falls, the establishing line retreats and progresses over a zone of around 2 to 3 miles (3 to 5 kilometers). In turn, this makes the glacier even more susceptible to melting.
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