THE VOID UNDER ANTARCTICA’S ICE

THE VOID UNDER ANTARCTICA’S ICE

Recent findings say that the Antarctic continent’s stability may be in danger. Sea levels would tremendously rise, threatening minor settlement and the cities we consider the pinnacle of human civilization.

THE ICE HIGHWAYS THREATEN ANTARCTICA’S STABILITY

On May 4, 2018, researchers found huge valleys hidden deep under the ice, linking the smaller West Antarctic Ice Sheet to the massive East Antarctic Ice Sheet. The survey mission was detailed in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

There are three canyons, which were named Foundation Trough, Patuxent Trough and Offset Rift Basin. They race through the mountain ranges that divide the two major regions of the frozen continent. Foundation is 217 miles long and 22 miles wide. Offset is half Foundation’s length but just as wide. Patuxent is a bit shorter and half Foundation’s width.

Each of those canyons literally provides a highway for ice to flow from the East Antarctic Ice Sheet – which is quite stable – into the smaller, less stable West Antarctic Ice Sheet. And each of them was completely unmapped and unseen under the ice until 2018.

“If the ice sheet thins or retreats, these topographically controlled corridors could facilitate enhanced flow of ice farther inland and could lead to the west Antarctic ice divide moving. This would, in turn, increase the speed and rate at which ice flows out from the center of Antarctica to its edges, leading to an increase in global sea levels,” Kate Winter, the lead study author and researcher at Northumbria University in England, said in a statement.

THE VOID THAT ROCKS THE ICE

There’s a giant void under the Antarctic ice. And it’s growing larger and more menacing by the day, a new study found. The cavity is about two-thirds the area of Manhattan and some 1,000 feet tall. It’s growing more by the day, at the bottom of Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica. And the ice above it, melts rapidly.

There were suppositions about some gaps between Thwaites Glacier and the bedrock below. But scientists were astounded by the huge void. And by its growth rate. According to NASA, the void was large enough to hold some 15 billion tons of ice. But that melted during the last three or four years.

Eric Rignot, study co-researcher a professor of Earth system science at the University of California, Irvine, and a principal scientist for the Radar Science and Engineering Section at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, detailed the findings in a statement.

The new generation of satellites used by NASA, that have ice-penetrating radar – Operation IceBridge – discovered that Antarctica’s ground has shifted substantially from 1992 to 2017.

Thwaites Glacier is about the size of Florida. Currently, it is responsible for roughly 4 percent of global sea rise. If it would melt completely, global ocean levels would rise by 2 feet. Aside of that, the glacier keeps other, neighboring glaciers from losing ice. If those would melt, too, worldwide sea level may increase by 8 feet.

So, many seaside settlements and large metropolises like New York City would be severely threatened.

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