Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica

“Disturbing” discovery: Giant hole found under Antarctica glacier

Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica
Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica NASA/OIB/JEREMY HARBECK

Researchers say a huge cavity the size of two-thirds of Manhattan was found under a glacier in Antarctica. The pocket is a sign of “rapid decay” and just one of “several disturbing discoveries” made recently regarding the glacier, NASA’s jet propulsion Laboratory said in a news release Wednesday.

“[The size of] a cavity under a glacier plays a very important role in melting,” said Pietro Milillo of the jet propulsion Laboratory. “As more heat and water get under the glacier, it melts quicker.”

The growing cavity sits in West Antarctica at the bottom of Thwaites glacier, that is about as huge as Florida and contains enough ice to contribute more than two feet to sea level rise, NASA said. it’s growing at an “explosive” rate that surprised researchers conducting a study the agency led on the glacier.

“The findings highlight the need for detailed observations of Antarctic glaciers’ undersides in calculating how fast global sea levels will rise in response to climate change,” NASA’s jet propulsion Laboratory said.

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. It looks to not only be melting on the ocean edges, but also from underneath, and warmer ocean waters are infiltrating.

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NASA said the hole is large enough to have held fourteen billion tons of ice — the majority of which has melted during the last 3 years. Scientists say the glacier is responsible for about 4% of global sea level rise.

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