Antarctic Ice Shelf Is Making Strange Noises

Posted: Oct 21 2018, 2:14am CDT | by , Updated: Oct 21 2018, 2:17am CDT, in Latest Science News


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Antarctic Ice Shelf is Making Strange Noises
Credit: N. Brady

Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica sings as winds blow across its surface.

Researchers have detected strange sounds coming from an Antarctic ice shelf. The sounds are produced when winds blow across snow dunes and cause ice to vibrate. Researchers believe this spooky sound could be used to track changes in the ice shelf.

Ross ice shelf is the largest ice shelf of Antarctica that is roughly the size of Texas. The ice shelf is several hundred meters thick and most of its ice exist below the water surface. It plays an important role in stabilizing the Antarctic ice sheet, acting like a buttress to hold the ice sheet on the Antarctic continent and resist the flow of ice from land into the ocean.

Antarctica is among the most rapidly warming places on the planet. Its melting ice sheets can affect environment and contribute to sea level rise. As global warming reduces the snow cover, many floating ice shelves in Antarctica are also at risk of collapsing and disappearing entirely.

To better understand changes in these critical features, researchers installed 34 extremely sensitive seismic sensors under the snowy surface of Ross ice shelf. The sensors allowed the researchers to study ice shelf’s structure and movements for over two years, from late 2014 to early 2017. When researchers started analyzing seismic data on the Ross Ice Shelf, they noticed a constant vibration from its surface. They found that this vibration is caused by snow dunes. Antarctic ice shelf rumbles as winds whip across the massive snow dunes, like the pounding of a colossal drum.

The sound also changed when weather conditions altered the snow layer’s surface. Researchers noticed difference in frequencies when strong storms changed the shape of the snow dunes or when the air temperatures at the surface went up or down. Studying the vibrations of an ice shelf’s could indicate how Antarctica is responding to changing climate.

“It’s kind of like you’re blowing a flute, constantly, on the ice shelf,” said lead author Julien Chaput, a geophysicist and mathematician at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. “Either you change the velocity of the snow by heating or cooling it, or you change where you blow on the flute, by adding or destroying dunes. And that’s essentially the two forcing effects we can observe.”

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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