Antarctica is not in a good place. In just a decade, the continent has lost billions of tons of ice with alarming rates that we can not keep up with, even in places where we once thought they were safe.
Now a stunning new emptiness has emerged amid this massive escape, and it's great: a giant cavity growing under Western Antarctica that scientists have said covers two-thirds of the track in Manhattan and stands nearly 300 meters (984 ft) tall.
This huge opening at the bottom of the Thwaites Glacier, a massive infamous "world's most dangerous glacier," is so large that it represents a distinct piece of estimated 252 billion tons of ancient Antarctic, which is losing every year.
Scientists say the cavity would once be large enough to have about 14 billion tons of ice. Even more worrying, scientists say it has lost most of this ice in just the last three years.
"We have long suspected that Thwaites were not firmly connected to the subsoil below," says glaciologist Eric Rignot of the Irvine University of California, and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.
"Thanks to the new generation of satellites, we can finally see details."
Rignot and other scientists have discovered a cavity using an ice radar as part of the NASA IceBridge operation, with additional data from German and French scientists.
According to reading, the hidden emptiness is just one accident between the "difficult retreat pattern and the ice melt" that takes place in the Thwaites glacier, with sectors each year receding up to 800 meters.
A complex pattern that reveals new readings – which do not match current ice sheets or ocean models – suggests scientists have more information about how water and ice work in each other in a cold but warm Antarctic environment.
"We are discovering different mechanisms of retreat," explains JPL Pietro Milillo, the first author of the new article.
While scientists are still learning new things about the complicated ways of melting fat in the Thwaite Glacier, at its most basic level, the giant cavity is a simple science (if unhappy).
"[The size of] the cavity under the glacier plays an important role in melting, "says Milillo.
"When he gets more heat and water under the glacier, he's spinning faster."
This is important to know because Thwaites currently account for about 4 percent of global sea level rise.
If it disappeared completely, ice in the glacier could lift the ocean by about 65 centimeters. But that's not even the worst case scenario.
Thwaites Glacier actually holds in neighboring glaciers and ice masses further inland. If its supporting force has disappeared, the consequences could be unthinkable and therefore considered to be such a fundamental natural structure in the Antarctic landscape.
How long does it stay, no one knows – and that's why scientists are just starting a big expedition to learn more about Thwaites.
What they find is still visible, but it is undoubtedly one of the most important scientific researches that are now taking place in the world.
As New York University told geologists David Holland, who did not participate in the study, he said Washington Post Last year: "For the global sea level change in the next century, this Thwaites glacier is almost the story."
The results of the findings are presented in the table Scientific progress.