Great Flood A'Coming? 'Ominous' Sounds of Melting Antarctic Ice Registered

Great Flood A'Coming? 'Ominous' Sounds of Melting Antarctic Ice Registered

When they looked at the data, they realized the top layer of the shelf (called the firn) was nearly constantly vibrating, thanks to the winds travelling atop the snow dunes. What they heard however, the creeping "singing" of the ice shelf, is not at all what the anticipated they would find.

That's where scientists buried dozens of sensors to alert them to the shelf's condition under climate change.

Scientists who monitor the Ross Ice Shelf in West Antarctica captured the unusual acoustic signal.

Think your friends would be interested? Listening for changes to the hum could indicate how the shelf is responding to changing weather conditions and whether it's in danger of cracking, the researchers report this week in Geophysical Research Letters.

The sound was measured by a team of scientists who placed seismic sensors under the snow on the Ross Ice Shelf, in order to monitor the structure and movement of the ice.

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.

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Just as musicians change pitch or note by altering how fast and through which holes air flows, strong storms and air temperatures adjust the topography.

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.

"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 said. "And that's essentially the two forcing effects we can observe".

Changes to the ice shelf's "seismic hum" could also indicate whether cracks in the ice are forming that might indicate whether the ice shelf is susceptible to breaking up.

"The response of the ice shelf tells us that we can track extremely sensitive details about it", said lead author Julien Chaput, a geophysicist and mathematician at the Colorado State University.

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