Feeds

Hidden Grand Canyon-sized ICE-HOLE hastens Antarctic melt

Huge chasm explains rapidly thinning Western ice sheets

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

Vid A geoboffin and glacioboffin team have discovered a Grand-Canyon-sized chasm hidden under the ice in West Antarctica that they believe is helping the ice to melt.

The University of Aberdeen and British Antarctic Survey (BAS) scientists returned to the Ferrigno Ice Stream, a region of the frozen continent only visited once before in 1961, and found a one-mile (1.6km) deep chasm under the ice.

The West Antarctic Ice Sheet is losing ice faster than any other region of the continent, with some glaciers shrinking by more than one metre a year, so boffins have figured that something else other than global warming (or whatever is causing the ice to melt) is at work.

Ice penetrating radar is towed across Ferrigno Ice Stream

WHEEEEEEE! Credit: Rob Bingham

To find out what that something is, the team went out on the ice in 2010 and dragged an ice-penetrating radar system behind a snowmobile for 1,500 miles (2,414km).

"What we found is that lying beneath the ice there is a large valley, parts of which are approximately a mile deeper than the surrounding landscape," said Dr Robert Bingham, a glaciologist at the uni.

“If you stripped away all of the ice here today, you’d see a feature every bit as dramatic as the huge rift valleys you see in Africa and in size as significant as the Grand Canyon.

"What’s particularly important is that this spectacular valley aligns perfectly with the recordings of ice-surface lowering and ice loss that we have witnessed with satellite observations over this area for the last twenty years," he added.

The massive trough, scoured out by ancient ice moving across the continent, allows warmer water from the Bellingshausen Sea to flow under it, thereby moving the warmth inland and thinning the ice along the way.

The boffins think that the rift they've discovered could be part of a system of valleys under the sheet that are all doing their bit to speed up the melting of the ice.

Professor David Vaughan of the British Antarctic Survey leads Ice2sea, an EU-funded research programme to improve projections of global and regional sea-level, and he reckons understanding the rift system could help figure out how much water the ice is likely to dump into the ocean.

"Thinning ice in West Antarctica is currently contributing nearly 10 per cent of global sea level rise," he said. "It’s important to understand this hot spot of change so we can make more accurate predictions for future sea level rise."

The team's research was published in this week's Nature. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
LOHAN tunes into ultra long range radio
And verily, Vultures shall speak status unto distant receivers
NASA to reformat Opportunity rover's memory from 125 million miles away
Interplanetary admins will back up data and get to work
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
EOS, Lockheed to track space junk from Oz
WA facility gets laser-eyes out of the fog
Volcanic eruption in Iceland triggers CODE RED aviation warning
Lava-spitting Bárðarbunga prompts action from Met Office
LOHAN Kickstarter push breaks TWELVE THOUSAND POUNDS
That's right, folks, you've stumped up OVER 9,000 beer tokens - and counting
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.