Tuesday, 13 November, 2018

An Antarctic ice shelf is 'singing' and it's creepy

Antarctic ice sounds really creepy when it vibrates Scientists Just Detected Some Very Odd Noises Coming From An Antarctic Ice Sheet
Frank Williams | 20 October, 2018, 17:09

It might sound like the terrifying soundtrack to a horror movie, but winds blowing across the snowy dunes of Antarctica's biggest ice shelf may help researchers monitor climate changes in Antarctica.

For this reason, they have buried 34 monitors seismic under the layer of snow from the sea ice of Ross so they can capture that awesome noise.

One of the researchers, Julien Chaput of Colorado State University, said: "It's kind of like you're blowing a flute, constantly, on the ice shelf", with each note change indicating a major structural change.

With this newfound ability, researchers could use seismic stations to continuously monitor the conditions on ice shelves nearly in real time, allowing us to see how the ice shelf's snow jacket is responding to changing climate conditions.

Everyone's getting in on the eerie Halloween mood these days, even the ice in Antarctica.

The snow layer atop the Antarctic ice sheet is like a fur coat for that, insulating the underlying ice from global warming and from higher temperatures that might cause its melting. From the data collected, they found the whipping of the winds across snow dunes caused rumbling in the snow blanket.

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"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". But, as University of Chicago glaciologist Douglas MacAyeal pointed out, seismic stations could aide near-real-time studies, giving scientists a sense of how that snow jacket responds to climate change.

The sounds are too low in frequency to be heard by human ears unless sped up by the monitoring equipment.

But if we deployed seismic sensors on more ice shelfs, you could observe subtle environmental changes, in minutes. Shifts in the ice's vibrational frequencies could reveal the early formation of cracks or melt ponds - signs of structural instability.

"The response of the ice shelf tells us that we can track extremely sensitive details about it", Chaput said.

At about 800km across, the ice shelf is about the size of France and has produced several icebergs, including B15 - the world's largest iceberg.

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