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Icebergs calving from the Dotson Ice Shelf in 2010. Photo: Jim Yungel / NASA

Scientists have discovered a long, narrow canyon being carved under Antarctica's Dotson Ice Shelf. The upside-down feature is half as deep as the 400-meter-thick ice shelf in some places, according to new satellite observations.

Why it's happening: "Unlike most recent observations, we think that the channel under Dotson is eroded by warm water, about 1°C, as it circulates under the shelf, stirred clockwise and upward by Earth's rotation," said Noel Gourmelen from the University of Edinburgh.

Why it matters: Ice shelves hold glaciers together and slow their flow into the ocean, which can add to sea-level rise, so researchers want to better understand how canyons like these form and affect their stability.

What it means for Dotson: If the uneven melting continued at its current rate, the canyon could melt through in 40 - 50 years rather than 170 - 200 years predicted for even melting. However, the researchers point out the shelf's thinning is likely to change in response to the uneven melting. "But the important point here is that Dotson is not a flat slab and it can be much thinner in places than we think it is and much closer to a stage where it might experience major change," Gourmelen said.

Go deeper

Updated 32 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: Trump received COVID vaccine at White House in January — CDC director warns "now is not the time" to lift COVID restrictions.
  2. Education: More schools are reopening in the U.S.
  3. Vaccine: J&J CEO "absolutely" confident in vaccine distribution goals Most states aren't prioritizing prisons for COVID vaccines — Vaccine hesitancy is shrinking.
  4. Economy: Apple says all U.S. stores open for the first time since start of pandemic — What's really going on with the labor market.
  5. Sports: Poll weighs impact of athlete vaccination.
  6. World: Latin America turns to China and Russia for COVID-19 vaccines.
Dave Lawler, author of World
50 mins ago - World

Latin America turns to China and Russia for COVID-19 vaccines

Several countries in the Americas have received their first vaccine shipments over the past few weeks — not from the regional superpower or from Western pharmaceutical giants, but from China, Russia, and in some cases India.

Why it matters: North and South America have been battered by the pandemic and recorded several of the world’s highest death tolls. Few countries other than the U.S. have the capacity to manufacture vaccines at scale, and most lack the resources to buy their way to the front of the line for imports. That’s led to a scramble for whatever supply is available.

More schools are reopening in the U.S.

Students settle into a classroom in New York City. Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

More than 72% of K-12 students are now attending schools that offer in-person or hybrid models of learning.

The big picture: The U.S. is seeing an almost-universal return of schools that were in-person as of November, as well as a gradual return in parts of the country that had been virtual for almost a year.