Enormous cavity in Antarctic glacier signals rapid decay

05 February, 2019, 02:42 | Author: Darnell Taylor
  • NASA Antarctic Antarctic glacier melting melting glacier Antarctic global warming Thwaites Glacier cavity NASA Operation IceBridge

The Thwaites Glacier, the largest outflow channel of the vulnerable West Antarctic Ice Sheet, now has a enormous subterranean hole. The research has shown that Thwaites Glacier is peeling off from the bedrock beneath it, meaning more of the glacier's base is exposed to warming waters.

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

'Thanks to a new generation of satellites, we can finally see the detail'. They've also used data from a constellation of Italian and German radars.

These tools revealed that the ground had shifted substantially from 1992 to 2017, the scientists found.

"[The size of] a cavity under a glacier plays an important role in melting", said Pietro Milillo of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in a news release by the organization. The common thread among them is the infiltration of relatively warm ocean water below the ice, thinning it and causing the glaciers to flow out to sea faster.

The cavity can be seen in the center of the GIF in deep red. The mottled area (bottom left) is the site of extensive calving. To understand "how the ocean melts these glaciers, it is essential to calculate what influence this has on sea level rise in the coming decades", says Rignot. The entire Thwaites glacier is as big as Florida, and now 4 percent of the sea level rise. Moreover, the glacier acts as a backstop for neighboring glaciers, meaning that it slows the rate at which they lose ice.

Thwaites has been described as one of the world's most unsafe glaciers because its demise could lead to rapid changes in global sea levels.

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Thwaites Glacier, one of the hardest places to reach on Earth, is responsible for around 4% of the global sea rise. "We are discovering different mechanisms of retreat", Milillo explains.

Many Antarctic glaciers extend for miles beyond their grounding lines, floating out over the open ocean.

It is noted that the Thwaites glacier in West Antarctica is known for its rapid movement, the speed of which sometimes reaches two miles a year.

However, there's been more retreat than advancement as of late.

Would melt the entire glacier, could increase the world's oceans of about 65 centimeters, said in the Nasa statement. In the case of the recently discovered cavity, it was found on the western side under the main trunk of the glacier.

"The researchers on the current study hope that these new results will help inform that team's work", the news portal continued.

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