Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Lakes beneath Antarctic ice sheets found to initiate and sustain flow of ice to ocean

The Earth Institute at Columbia University—One of the planet's most remote and little-understood features may play a crucial role in transporting ice from the remote interior of Antarctica towards the surrounding ocean according to a new research.

Geophysicists Robin Bell and Michael Studinger from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, a part of The Earth Institute at Columbia University, led a team that discovered four large, subglaical lakes that for the first time the link these water bodies locked beneath miles of ice, to fast flowing ice streams in Antarctica. Together with colleagues from NASA, the University of New Hampshire and the University of Washington, the scientists found that, in four separate cases, lakes appear to contribute to the formation of ice streams. Their work appears in the February 22 issue of the journal Nature.

Ice streams are large, fast-flowing features within ice sheets that transport land-based ice and meltwater to the ocean. One such stream, the Recovery Ice Stream, drains 8 percent of the U.S.-sized East Antarctic Ice Sheet. The Recovery basin, unexplored since 1966, funnels an estimated 35 billion tons of ice into the Weddell Sea annually.

"Until about a year ago, not many people cared much about subglacial lakes," said Studinger. "That's changing, but we're still only just beginning to understand how these lakes, sealed beneath more than two miles of ice, have the potential to impact the rest of the world."

The scientists examined satellite radar images and high-resolution laser profiles of the region for ice stream patterns and surface features indicating the presence of subglacial lakes beneath the ice. Not only did they find four new lakes, but they discovered that the lakes coincide with the origin of tributaries of the Recovery Glacier. Upstream of the lakes, the ice sheet moves at just 2 to 3 meters per year; downstream the flow increases to nearly 50 meters per year. Bell and Studinger conclude that the lakes provide a reservoir of water that lubricates the bed of the stream to facilitate ice flow and prevent the base of the sheet from freezing to the bedrock.

Moreover, their work suggests that subglacial lakes could play a role in and sea level rise as well as regional and global climate change. Meltwater at the base of ice streams increases the flow of ice to the oceans, which could, in turn, contribute to higher sea levels worldwide. In addition, floods have been known to originate from the interior of the ice sheet in the past, possibly from subglacial lakes. These sudden pulses of fresh water could potentially interfere with nearby ocean currents that redistribute heat and carbon dioxide around the globe, disrupting the Earth's finely tuned climate system.

"It's almost as if the lakes are capturing the geothermal energy from the entire basin and releasing it to the ice stream." said Bell. "They power the engines that drive ice sheet collapse. The more we learn about them, the more we realize how important they are."

Clare Oh | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Jacobs University supports new mapping of Mars, Mercury and the Moon
21.03.2018 | Jacobs University Bremen gGmbH

nachricht Thawing permafrost produces more methane than expected
20.03.2018 | GFZ GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam, Helmholtz Centre

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Taming chaos: Calculating probability in complex systems

21.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

21.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

New 4-D printer could reshape the world we live in

21.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>