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Rapid Decay Indicated By Giant Cavity In Antarctic Glaciers

The melting rate on this side of the glacier is extremely high.

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A glacier is shown in a photo taken in Half Moon Bay, Antarctica, Feb. 18, 2018.
A glacier is shown in a photo taken in Half Moon Bay, Antarctica, Feb. 18, 2018. VOA

Scientists from NASA have discovered a gigantic cavity, almost 300 metres tall, growing at the bottom of the Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica, indicating acceleration in rising global sea levels due to climate change.

The size of the cavity, at Thwaites’ bottom where ocean water could flow in and melt the glacier from below, is big enough to have contained 14 billion tonnes of ice.

Importantly, most of that ice melted over the last three years, the findings showed.

“(The size of) a cavity under a glacier plays an important role in melting,” said lead author Pietro Milillo of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California.

Antarctica, Ice
The Collins glacier on King George Island has retreated in the last 10 years and shows signs of fragility, in the Antarctic, Feb. 2, 2018. VOA

“As more heat and water get under the glacier, it melts faster.”

The cavity, reported in the Science Advances journal, was revealed by ice-penetrating radar in NASA’s Operation IceBridge — an airborne campaign beginning in 2010 that studies connections between the polar regions and the global climate.

Thwaites Glacier is currently responsible for approximately 4 per cent of global sea level rise.

It holds enough ice to raise the world’s oceans a little over 2 feet and backstops neighbouring glaciers that would raise sea levels to an additional 8 feet if all the ice were lost.

Antarctica
Antarctica melting away at alarming rate: Study. Flickr

Thwaites is one of the hardest places to reach on Earth, but it is about to become better known than ever before.

The huge cavity was under the main trunk of the glacier on its western side – the side farther from the West Antarctic Peninsula.

In this region, as the tide rises and falls, the grounding line retreats and advances across a zone of about 3 to 5 km. The glacier has been coming unstuck from a ridge in the bedrock at a steady rate of about 0.6 to 0.8 km a year since 1992.

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Despite this stable rate of grounding-line retreat, the melting rate on this side of the glacier is extremely high.

These results highlighted that ice-ocean interactions were more complex than previously understood. (VOA)

Next Story

NASA Receives Over 12K Applications By Candidates For Joining its Next Class of Artemis Generation Astronauts

The next class of Artemis Generation astronauts will help us explore more of the Moon than ever before and lead us to the Red Plane

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NASA
NASA expects to introduce the new astronaut candidates in the summer of 2021. Pixabay

NASA has received over 12,000 applications from people showing willingness to join its next class of Artemis Generation astronauts who will help the US space agency explore the Moon and Mars like never before.

The application for the newest class of astronauts opened March 2 and closed March 31, NASA said on Wednesday, adding that applications were received from every US state, the District of Columbia, and four US territories. “We’ve entered a bold new era of space exploration with the Artemis programme, and we are thrilled to see so many incredible Americans apply to join us,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement.

“The next class of Artemis Generation astronauts will help us explore more of the Moon than ever before and lead us to the Red Planet,” Bridenstine added. However, the process is just beginning for NASA’s Astronaut Selection Board, which will assess the applicants’ qualifications and invite the most qualified candidates to the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston for interviews and medical tests before making a final selection.

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NASA expects to introduce the new astronaut candidates in the summer of 2021. Once selected, the astronaut candidates will go through approximately two years of initial skills training, such as spacewalking, robotics, and spacecraft systems, as well as expeditionary behavior skills, such as leadership, followership, and teamwork.

After completing training, the new astronauts could launch on American rockets and spacecraft — developed for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program — to live and work aboard the International Space Station, 250 miles above Earth. There they will take part in experiments that benefit life at home and prepare NASA for the Moon and Mars.

This new class also may launch aboard NASA’s powerful new Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft for Artemis missions to the Moon. Beginning in 2024, NASA will send the first woman and next man to the lunar surface and will establish sustainable lunar exploration by 2028. Gaining insights from new experiences on and around the Moon will prepare NASA to send the first humans to Mars in the 2030s.

Astronaut, Space Shuttle, Discovery, Space, Universe
NASA has received over 12,000 applications from people showing willingness to join its next class of Artemis Generation astronauts who will help the US space agency explore the Moon and Mars like never before. Pixabay

The number of people who applied to be an astronaut represents the second-highest number of applications NASA has ever received, surpassed only by the record of 18,300 set by the most recent class of astronauts who graduated in January. For this round of applications, NASA increased the education requirement for applicants from a bachelor’s degree to a master’s degree in a science, technology, math, or engineering field.

In addition, the application period was shortened from two months to one. Since the 1960s, NASA has selected 350 people to train as astronaut candidates for its increasingly challenging missions to explore space.

ALSO READ: Amazon Takes Major Steps To Protect its Worker

With 48 astronauts in the active astronaut corps, more will be needed to serve as crew aboard spacecraft bound for multiple destinations and propel exploration forward as part of Artemis missions and beyond. (IANS)