According to NASA, "a few disturbing discoveries" is based on a research study of the Thwaites Colosal Glacier in Western Antarctica. At the top of the usual ice thinning story, they found a huge cavity – perhaps the size of the Eiffel Tower – growing at the bottom of a giant glacier.
Thwaites Glacier, approximately in Florida, once contained more than 14 billion tons of frozen water, which is sufficient to raise the sea level by more than 2 feet (65 centimeters). However, the huge amount of this colossal ice cube has melted in the last three years due to climate change, contributing to around 4% of the global sea level rise.
As reported in the magazine Scientific progress, researchers have gained a clearer picture of the iceberg situation. Their findings show that Thwaites Glacier suffers from extensive dilution, receding and calming, as well as a 300-meter hole within its western wing, which grew at an "explosive" pace.
"[The size of] the cavity under the glacier plays an important role in melting, "said lead researcher Pietro Milillo of NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) declaration. "When he gets more heat and water under the glacier, he's spinning faster."
NASA's senior scientist has been studying icebergs using satellites and specialized ice artillery radar to provide scientists with high-resolution data on the ever changing shape and size of the glacier. This data also sheds light on another concern about the glacier's ground line, the moment the glacier began to leave the country and swim at sea. Research has shown that the Thwaites Glacier breaks from the subsoil beneath it, which means that more glaciers are exposed to the warming water base. This makes the glacier even more prone to melting.
"We have years of suspicion that Thwaites was not tightly connected to the subsoil beneath it," said Eric Rignot of NASA's University of California, Irvine and JPL. "Thanks to the new generation of satellites, we can finally see details."
Thwaites Glacier plays a relatively important role in the story of rising sea levels and climate change so there has never been more effort to study and understand it. Just this week the glacier left Chile to begin a scientific expedition to Thwaites Glacier with the help of a number of other ships, researchers, planes and a wild seal.
"Understanding the details of how this glacier melts through the ocean is necessary to show its impact on sea level rise in the coming decades," Rignot added.