A cavity beneath the Antarctic
Scientists have discovered an enormous cavity beneath one of the Antarctic’s least stable glaciers, raising fears that the continent’s ice sheet will melt even faster than previously predicted. The chamber, in the Thwaites Glacier on the west coast of Antarctica, is nearly 1,000 feet high and covers an area two-thirds the size of Manhattan—large enough to have contained about 14 billion tons of ice. It was found by NASA scientists using satellite data and aircraft equipped with ice-penetrating radar, reports NBCNews.com. Roughly the size of Florida, the Thwaites Glacier already accounts for about 4 percent of global sea-level rise; if it collapses, it will raise sea levels worldwide by more than 2 feet, with catastrophic consequences for coastal communities and cities. The researchers say the cavity is the result of warm ocean water melting the ice shelf from underneath. “It’s a direct impact of climate change on the glacier,” says co-author Eric Rignot, from the University of California, Irvine. Meanwhile, a separate study has warned that at least a third of the glaciers in the Himalayas will melt by 2100—even if the most ambitious climate change targets are met.