NASA scientists recently discovered that the Thwaites Glacier, a massive Antarctic glacial body about the size of Britain, has a giant cavity in it, roughly two-thirds the size of Manhattan. The worrying discovery has led to questions about what will happen if the glacier collapses entirely.
The glacial cavity, found at the bottom of a glacier in western Antarctica with the use of ice-penetrating radar and satellites with high-resolution lenses, was discovered by researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who called the find “disturbing” and warned that the mysterious cavity, once containing 14 billion tonnes of frozen fresh water, was still growing at an “explosive” rate. The discovery is vital, the scientists said, because it demonstrated that Antarctic ice is melting not only in areas adjacent to oceans, but also from underneath its thick ice sheets.
Rising Sea Levels
The immediate and most obvious concern about the discovery is that if the Thwaites Glacier, which extends some 192,000 square kilometres, or 74,000 square miles, were to melt completely, it could raise global sea levels by some 2 feet (0.6 metres). According to the Smithsonian Institute, such a rise would be enough to threaten coastal cities around the globe, flooding island nations and leading to soil erosion.
Last year, researchers from Germany, Austria and Australia released a studywhich concluded that with sea levels expected to rise two feet worldwide by the year 2300, low-lying areas of Florida and Bangladesh, and entire nations such as the Maldives in the Indian Ocean or Kiribati in the Pacific, would be threatened, with massive coastal urban areas such as Shanghai, London, New York, and New Orleans affected as…
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