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Huge cavity found beneath Antarctic glacier


Posted on Thursday, 31 January, 2019 | Comment icon 6 comments

The Thwaites glacier is a major contributor to sea level rise. Image Credit: NASA
The world's 'most dangerous' glacier has developed a gaping hole around two-thirds the size of Manhattan.
It's no secret that Antarctica has been losing ice at an unprecedented rate - upwards of 252 billion tons a year - leading to grave concerns over the inevitable rise in global sea levels.

The infamous Thwaites Glacier - a vast ice flow that has been described as the 'weak underbelly' of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet - is one of the biggest contributers to this problem.

Now scientists studying its progress have discovered that a huge cavity has opened up beneath it - a gaping 300-meter-tall chasm approximately two-thirds the size of Manhattan.

Of particular concern is the fact that most of the 1.4 billion tons of ice that once made up this empty space were believed to have been lost within the last three years alone.

If the entire glacier was to disappear completely it would raise global sea levels by around 2ft.

What's more, the glacier is currently holding back several other glaciers and ice masses that, if also lost, could raise sea levels by a further 8ft.

For this reason, Thwaites has been nicknamed the "most dangerous glacier in the world".

Exactly how long it will be before it does melt however currently remains unclear.

Source: Science Alert | Comments (6)

Tags: Antarctica, Glacier

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Still Waters on 31 January, 2019, 11:30
Related:
Comment icon #2 Posted by mdbuilder on 31 January, 2019, 15:46
Where would theorists and†alarmists be without the word "If"? Would make for some pretty bland reading.
Comment icon #3 Posted by mrknownothing on 31 January, 2019, 16:56
Well I live at 9í above sea level, 4 miles from the beach. If this happens Iíll be oceanfront and my condos value will skyrocket!!!
Comment icon #4 Posted by sanchez710 on 31 January, 2019, 19:53
I have no idea how big Manhattan is, could someone enlighten me please?
Comment icon #5 Posted by Rolltide on 31 January, 2019, 23:46
Roughly 23 sq miles..
Comment icon #6 Posted by Doug1o29 on 1 February, 2019, 19:40
All that means is that Thwaites glacier has floated off its grounding line.† The seaward end of it is now floating.† That's usually the first step in the breakup of a glacier.† Next, large icebergs will calve from the front side until the sea reaches the grounded ice.† Ice flow will then increase due to the reduced resistance from grounded ice to seaward.† The land-based side will thin as ice-flow increases - and more icebergs are produced. With continental glaciers, that's as far as we've come, so far.† We'll have to wait and see what happens next. Doug P.S.:† it's possible that the ice will ... [More]


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