An Antarctic Ice Shelf Is ‘Singing,’ Scientists Say

Cesar Mills
October 20, 2018

Strikingly, these creepy tunes actually have scientific value, enabling scientists to monitor warming in Antarctica's variable ice.

It is reported by the American geophysical Union (AGU), reports the Chronicle.info with reference to Focus.

The Antarctic ice sheet "song" was recorded at the Ross Ice Shelf is Antarctica's largest ice shelf, which is a Texas-sized glacier, which gains its volume thanks to the icy inner side of the continent's ice that floats atop the Southern Ocean.

Tracking changes in the ice shelf is crucial as, after they collapse, the resulting ice can raise sea levels significantly. This means it is more important than ever that we keep a vigilant eye on any major changes in ice shelves.

The biggest shelf in Antarctica - the Ross shelf has an area of about 500 square kilometers, slightly less than France.

The researchers buried 34 "extremely sensitive" seismic sensors beneath the snowy surface of the Ross Ice Shelf to observe its vibrations and study its structure and movements.

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"We discovered that the shelf almost continuously sings at frequencies of five or more cycles per second", the authors explain, "excited by local and regional winds blowing across its snow dune‐like topography". Because of the constant wind, the snow like sand dunes in the desert.

The waves are too slow to hear by human ears, but the scientists sped them up to illustrate their point. Also change the vibrations can prevent the appearance of cracks in the shelf.

Global warming has caused over three trillion tons of ice to melt from Antarctica in the past quarter-century and tripled ice loss there in the past decade. 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.

"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", Chaput explained.

"It's kind of like you're blowing a flute, constantly, on the ice shelf", Julien Chaput, lead author of the study, said.

Read the full study, published this week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

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