NASA scientists recently found a hole two-thirds the size of Manhattan in Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier – and warn that the entirety of the gap may have formed in the past three years. The gaping hole in the glacier is nearly 1,000 feet tall and large enough to have contained as much as 14 billion tons of ice, and scientists warn that the
That’s a big deal given that the Thwaites Glacier – roughly the size of Florida in total – could add up to 10 feet to global sea levels if it were to fully collapse. The formation of a hole in the glacier makes it more likely that ice will continue to melt, as it allows relatively warm ocean water to enter into the interior of the glacier and a path for meltwater to flow out through. However, scientists are still uncertain about exactly how far water can penetrate into the fragile glacier and how quickly that could lead to further melt.
There is some good news, though. Scientists from the US and UK have recently teamed up to figure out how quickly the glacier could spill similarly enormous chunks of ice into the sea. Initial estimates suggest that with emissions reductions, there is less than a 10% chance of the glacier collapsing before 2100.