Scientists used a submarine to send under the Thwaites Glacier taking advantage of a favorable period of its waters. The finding alerts to the collapse of the glacier and the rise in sea level.
The Oregon State University expedition discovered that there were three streams of hot water leading to the Thwaites Glacier. They came from different directions and mingled under the ice. The Thwaites is the size of Britain and if it collapses, the researchers say it could lead to a one meter rise in global sea level.
This sea level rise would be the largest in this century, said lead researcher Erin Pettit.
The study involving scientists from the UK and the US began after concerns that the increasingly unstable glacier may have already begun to collapse.
They are working to collect data from a series of different experiments and tests to better predict whether a Thwaites will happen.
The latest findings from a study on the wider ice shelf on which the glacier sits come within two years of the five-year project.
The melting of the Thwaites is of global concern, as its sheer magnitude means that it contains enough ice that, if melted, it would have global implications.
“We have never seen an ice sheet disintegrate in a warming climate, so we are struggling to project how it could happen."Said glaciologist Ted Scambos.
Already, Thwaites accounts for about 4% of global sea level rise, as warming waters causes it to melt below.
Researchers have long been concerned that a tipping point in the stability of its foundations could result in a glacier collapse.