The discovery of cavity beneath Thwaites Glacier along with a number of other disconcerting features offer a new wrinkle to the harrowing tale of West Antarctica.
A massive hole two-thirds the size of Manhattan was just discovered in what is dubbed as the "most risky glacier in the world".
Researchers say the cavity would once have been large enough to hold some 14 billion tonnes of ice.
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.
Crevasses are seen in the Thwaites glacier on October 16, 2012.
Yet the enormous size and fast-moving growth rate of the hole in Thwaites was called both "disturbing" and "surprising" by researchers.
Scientists spotted the concealed void thanks to a new generation of satellites, Rignot noted. Researchers combined the NASA data with data from Italian and German spaceborne synthetic aperture radars.
"[The size of] a cavity under a glacier plays an important role in melting", the study's lead author Pietro Milillo said in the statement.
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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. Even more disturbing, the researchers say it lost most of this ice volume over the last three years alone.
The Thwaites Glacier is that one glacier that's responsible for 4% of global sea level rise.
The graphic shows, the effects of sea-level Rise on the coastal regions. A radar was used to peer through the ice to see to the bottom of the glacier. Could you imagine how fingers under the glacier, to him from below to melt.
Changes in surface height at Thwaites Glacier's grounding line. The collaboration includes the U.S. National Science Foundation and British National Environmental Research Council. For instance, the 100-mile-long (160 kilometers) glacier front has different rates of retreat in its grounding line (where the sea ice meets the ocean's bedrock) depending on where you look.
For Thwaites, "We are discovering different mechanisms of retreat", Millilo said.
In this region, as the tide rises and falls, the grounding line retreats and advances across a zone of about 3 to 5 km.
These results highlighted that ice-ocean interactions were more complex than previously understood. Most models of the Thwaites glacier don't take into account rapid cavern forming, so the entire glacier is likely to be melting much faster than our predictions estimate.