Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier has a gaping hole, according to a new study published in Science Advances in January 2019.
• The study revealed that the hole, or cavity, in West Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier is about 1,000 feet deep and six miles long.
• This hole means that the glacier is melting much more quickly than expected.
• It is a direct impact of climate change on the glacier.
• The cavity was discovered using data from satellites as well as from NASA’s operation IceBridge program, which relies on ice-penetrating radar to examine glaciers.
• Sign of worry because:
If the glacier eventually completely collapses, sea levels would rise by around two feet- something that current scientific models predict could happen in 50 to 100 years.
If Thwaites collapses, it is possible that nearby glaciers would slide into the ocean and melt as well, since Thwaites currently acts as a barrier preventing them from reaching
This would make sea levels rise by another eight feet.
• It is an unusually broad and fast Antarctic glacier flowing into Pine Island Bay, part of the Amundsen Sea, east of Mount Murphy, on the Walgreen Coast of Marie Byrd Land.
• Thwaites Glacier drains into West Antarctica’s Amundsen Sea and is closely watched for its potential to raise sea levels.
• Along with Pine Island Glacier, Thwaites Glacier has been described as part of the “weak underbelly” of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, due to its apparent vulnerability to
NASA’s IceBridge Mission
• NASA’s Operation IceBridge images Earth’s polar ice in detail to better understand processes that connect the polar regions with the global climate system.
• IceBridge utilizes a highly specialized fleet of research aircraft and the most sophisticated suite of innovative science instruments ever assembled to characterize annual
changes in thickness of sea ice, glaciers, and ice sheets.
• In addition, IceBridge collects critical data used to predict the response of Earth’s polar ice to climate change and resulting sea-level rise.
• IceBridge also helps bridge the gap in polar observations between NASA’s ICESat satellite missions.