"View of the Riiser-Larsen Ice Shelf in Antarctica" by NASA / Public Domain

Giant Void Hidden Under Antarctica’s Ice Threatens Vast Glacier

Feb 1, 2019

By Laura Geggel

There’s a giant void hiding under the Antarctic ice, and it’s growing larger and more menacing by the day, a new study using satellite data finds.

The cavity is colossal, about two-thirds the area of Manhattan and nearly 1,000 feet (300 meters) tall. It’s growing at the bottom of Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica, and it’s rapidly enabling ice melt above it.

Scientists thought there might be some gaps between Thwaites Glacier and the bedrock below it, where ocean water could flow in and melt the icy glacier above it. But even they found the immensity and speed of the void’s growth surprising.

For starters, the void is large enough to have once held 15 billion tons (13.6 billion metric tons) of ice, but much of that ice has melted during the past three years, according to NASA.

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