Feeds

Hidden Grand Canyon-sized ICE-HOLE hastens Antarctic melt

Huge chasm explains rapidly thinning Western ice sheets

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

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. ®

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
All those new '5G standards'? Here's the science they rely on
Radio professor tells us how wireless will get faster in the real world
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Microsoft's anti-bug breakthrough: Wire devs to BRAIN SCANNERS
Clippy: It looks your hands are shaking, are you sure you want to commit this code?
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.