NASA just made a disturbing discovering underneath the Antarctic ice. A team led by the space agency found a huge cavity — around 1,000 feet high — under a glacier in Antarctica, and it is steadily expanding in size.
Experts have predicted they would a large cavity somewhere underneath the Thwaites Glacier, which is located in West Antarctica, but they did not expect such a large one between the ice sheet and bedrock. NASA scientists discovered the expansive chamber using a mix of radar and satellite imagery techniques.
The cavity has been forming over the past three years as higher global temperatures have steadily melted the ice. The cavity, which is close to the size of Manhattan, is large enough to have housed around 14 billion tons of ice at one time.
“[The size of] a cavity under a glacier plays an important role in melting,” Pietro Milillo, who works for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), explained. “As more heat and water get under the glacier, it melts faster.”
NASA believes the cavity illustrates a need for more Antarctic studies in the near future, especially as global temperatures continue to rise. Keeping tabs on how fast these glacier’s are melting will also give us better insight on rising sea levels and climate change around the world. The space agency hopes that additional studies will help better predict how much oceans will rise — which has a direct impact on coastal populations.
Being similar in size to Florida, the Thwaites Glacier has contributed to a four percent increase in sea level over the past few years. NASA discovered the Antarctic glacier has enough mass to raise sea levels around the world by around two feet. Even more concerning, melting glaciers affect nearby bodies of ice, which leads to additional runoff.
Scientists previously found that sea levels are rising faster than they have over the past 2,800 years. Experts also anticipate that oceans might double their current pace over the next 100 years. The vast majority of the rise in sea levels is due to melting Antarctic glaciers. These massive chunks of ice contribute an astounding 14,000 tons of water per second into surrounding oceans.
Image via NASA