NASA Finds Giant Cavity in Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier

Katie Ramirez
February 1, 2019

The huge cavity is under the main trunk of the glacier on its western side - the side farther from the West Antarctic Peninsula.

Scientists have found a "cavity" melted in the ice that occupies roughly two-thirds the surface area of Manhattan, prompting the space agency say its existence "signals" the ice sheet's "rapid decay".

According to NASA, the cavity once contained some 14 billion tons of ice, most of which has supposedly melted in last three years.

JPL said the glacier, about the size of Florida, holds enough ice to raise ocean levels another 60 centimetres if it completely melts.

Worse, Thwaites Glacier acts as a kind of "door stop", preventing adjoining glaciers from sliding towards the sea. Their findings show that Thwaites Glacier is suffering from extensive ice thinning, receding, and calving, as well as a 300-meter (1,000-foot) hole inside its west wing that's growing at an "explosive" rate.

'Thanks to a new generation of satellites, we can finally see the detail'.

Piyush Goyal to present interim Budget on Feb 1
The Union Budget 2019-20 will be presented in the Parliament by Finance Minister Piyush Goyal in a couple of minutes. Around 3 crore middle class taxpayers will get tax exemption due to this measure.

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 Glacier alone holds enough ice above sea level to raise sea levels by more than 65cm if it was to melt.

That's important to know, since Thwaites now accounts for about 4 percent of global sea level rise. 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. The International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration is a joint project between the U.S. National Science Foundation and the British National Environmental Research Council with the aim of getting a better understanding of the glacier and how it will respond to climate change in the future.

Thwaites Glacier plays an instrumental role in the story of rising sea levels and climate change, so there's never been more of a drive to study and understand it. The disappearance of the ice mass would cause sea levels to rise by about two feet as well as making surrounding glaciers more likely to melt rapidly-which could cause an eight foot rise. Scientists have long thought that the glacier was not attached firmly to the bedrock beneath it.

Thwaites Glacier, curiously, isn't melting in a uniform way. 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.

"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. Despite this stable rate of grounding-line retreat, the melt rate on this side of the glacier is extremely high.

Other reports by

Discuss This Article