The Antarctic is not in a good place. In the premises with only decades, the continent has lost trillions of tons of frost with alarming rates that we can not track, even in places we once thought we were safe.
Now, a stunning new void has been discovered during this massive disappearance act, and it's huge: a huge void that stretches beneath the western part of Antarctica, which scientists say covers two thirds of the footprint of Manhattan and stands nearly 300 meters (984 rates).
This huge opening at the bottom of the Thwaites Glacier – a massive miscreant called the "most dangerous glacier in the world" – is so large that it represents an apparent portion of about 252 billion tonnes of ice Antarctica loses each year.
The researchers say that the gap was once large enough to have about 14 billion tons of ice. Even more disturbing, researchers say they have lost most of this ice in the last three years.
"For years, we have been suspected that the Thwaites are not firmly attached to the foundation underneath," said Glacier Eric Rigot of the University of California, Irvine, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory Laboratory (JPL) Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
"Thanks to the new generation of satellites, we can finally see the details."
Rignot and fellow researchers discovered the cavity with the help of a radar for breaking ice, as part of NASA's IceBridge operation, with additional data provided by German and French scientists.
According to the readings, the hidden cavity is just one ice sacrifice among the "complex model of retreat and melting of ice" that occurs in Thwaites Glacier, whose sectors are receding at as much as 800 feet (2,625 feet) each year.
A complex model that reveals new readings-which do not coincide with existing ice patterns or ocean models-suggest that scientists have more to learn how water and ice communicate with one another in the frigid but warming of the Antarctic environment.
"We are discovering different withdrawal mechanisms," explains the first author of the new document, a radar scientist, JPL Pietro Milillo.
While researchers are still learning new things about the complex ways of melting ice at Thwaite Glacier, in its most basic, gigantic cavity is a simple (if unfortunate) scientific fact.
"[The size of] the glacier below the glacier plays an important role in melting, "says Milillo.
"As more heat and water are below the glacier, it melts faster."
It's important to know, since Thwaites currently account for about 4 percent of global sea-level rise.
If it completely disappears, the ice stored in the glacier can raise the ocean by about 65 centimeters (about 2 feet). But that's not even the worst-case scenario.
Thwaites Glacier actually has in the adjacent glaciers and ice tables further inside. If its supportive force disappears, the consequences could be unthinkable, which is why it is considered such a key natural structure in the Antarctic landscape.
For how long it will remain, nobody knows – so scientists are now heading for a large expedition to learn more about Thwaites.
What they find remains to be seen, but this is most often among the most important scientific researches that are being conducted in the world right now.
As New York University, geologist David Holland, who was not involved in the current study, Washington Post Last year: "For global changes at sea level in the next century, this Thwaites Glacier is almost the whole story."
Findings are reported in Progress in science.