Antarctica is not a good place. In just a few decades, the continent has lost a trillion tons of ice at alarming speeds that we cannot keep up with, even in places where we ever thought they were safe.
Now, during this great act of extinction, a tremendous new emptiness has emerged and is great: a huge cavity that grows in Western Antarctica, scientists say it covers two-thirds of Manhattan's foot and stands almost 300 meters (984 feet) long.
This tremendous opening at the bottom of the Thwaites Glacier – a mass that is infamously called "the most dangerous glacier in the world" – is so large that it is an open piece of about 252 billion tons of ice in Antarctica every year.
Researchers say the cavity would have been large enough to hold about 14 billion tonnes of ice ever. More worryingly, researchers say it has lost most of this ice over the last three years.
"For years, we have thought Thwaites was not firmly attached to its foundations," says Glaciologist Eric Rignot from the University of California Irvine and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasaden, California.
"Thanks to the new generation of satellites, we can finally see the details."
Rignot and other researchers discovered the cavity using ice-penetrating radar as part of NASA's IceBridge operation, with additional data provided by German and French scientists.
According to the data read, the hidden emptiness is just one ice accident between the "complex retreat and ice melt" model, which takes place at Thwaites Glacier, whose industries depart every year even 800 meters (2,625 feet).
New readings show the complex model – which does not correspond to current ice or ocean models – that scientists need to know more about how water and ice interact with each other in the ice but in the warming Antarctic environment.
"We discover a variety of retreat mechanisms," explains Pietro Milillo, the first author of the new paper, JPL Radar Scientist.
While researchers are still learning new things about the complex ways in which Thwaite Glacier melts, its primary education is a simple (if unsuccessful) scientific actuality.
"[The size of] pips play an important role in the glacier land, ”says Milillo.
"As more ice is heated and water, it melts faster."
It's important to know, because Thwaites currently make up about 4 percent of the world's sea level rise.
If it completely disappeared, the glacier in the glacier could lift the ocean about 65 centimeters (about 2 feet). But this is not even the worst case.
The Thwaites Glacier is indeed within the nearest glaciers and ice masses. If its power disappeared, the consequences could be unimaginable, so it is considered as an important natural structure in the Antarctic landscape.
For how long it will stay, no one knows – so scientists are now launching a large expedition to learn more about Thwaites.
What they will find will remain visible, but it is undoubtedly one of the most important scientific studies currently being carried out in the world.
According to David Holts, a geographer at the University of New York, who was not involved in the current study The Washington Post last year: "With the world-class level changing over the next century, this Thwaites glacier is almost the whole story."
Results are reported Science Development.