The hole takes up two-thirds of the area of Manhattan and is almost 300 meters high: The Thwaites glacier in Western Antarctica, researchers at the American space Agency Nasa have found a huge cavity.

The Region around the glacier is known that you lose a lot of ice. At the beginning of the study, the researchers therefore assume that you would find on a glacier at the end of some of the gaps between the ice and the surface, according to Nasa, in a statement. The size and the extremely fast growth of the cavity is surprised but then they.

The resulting hole passed once 14 billion tons of ice – the bulk of it was melted off within the past three years, the scientists write in the journal “Science Advances” after the evaluation of different Radar images.

The end of the glacier, where the cavity has been formed, is particularly sensitive, because of warmer sea encroachment of water to the ice and it can melt from below. A large hole is created in the process, it also affects the future of the glacier. “There’s more heat and water under the glacier, melting it faster,” says Pietro Milillo from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of Nasa in Pasadena.

For four per cent of sea-level rise

The Thwaites glacier, about the size of the U.S. state of Florida, and currently account for about four percent of the global sea-level rise is responsible. He would melt completely would be a sea level rise of 65 cm. In addition, the Thwaites stabilized more glaciers, whose complete melting would raise sea levels according to Nasa, by 2.4 meters.

researchers want to study the remote Region in the coming years, in order to understand the processes at the glacier and accurate forecasts for their development.


The glacier is developed on different sides in different ways. On the West side, where the large cavity varies, the basic line with the ebb and flood are currently between three and five kilometers. The base line is the point at which the glacier starts to float on sea water.

furrow modified baseline

a furrow in the Rocks of the glacier solves more and more of the land mass – the basic line is retreating every year since 1992, 0.6 to 0.8 km. At the same time the ice melts in the area extremely quickly.

On the East side of the glacier it looks a little different. “The withdrawal of the basic line is one of many small water channels,” says Milillo. Could you imagine how fingers under the glacier, to him from below to melt.

In this Region has doubled the speed of the glacier line pulls back – of 0.6 kilometers per year in the period 1992 to 2011 to 1.2 kilometers per year between 2011 and 2017. Nevertheless, the glacier melts more slowly here than on the West side.

Recently, there have been repeated reports about the melting of the ice in the Antarctic. In mid-January, researchers warned that the so far quite stable-held East of the continent is losing much more ice than previously thought.


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