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

22.02.2007
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:
http://www.ei.columbia.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht NASA examines newly formed Tropical Depression 3W in 3-D
26.04.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht Early organic carbon got deep burial in mantle
25.04.2017 | Rice University

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Scientist invents way to trigger artificial photosynthesis to clean air

26.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ammonium nitrogen input increases the synthesis of anticarcinogenic compounds in broccoli

26.04.2017 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

SwRI-led team discovers lull in Mars' giant impact history

26.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>