Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New research provides insight into ice sheet behavior

22.07.2009
A new study published this week takes scientists a step further in their quest to understand how Antarctica's vast glaciers will contribute to future sea-level rise.

Reporting in the journal Nature Geoscience, scientists from British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and University of Durham describe how a new 3-d map created from radar measurements reveals features in the landscape beneath a vast river of ice, ten times wider than the Rhine*, in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

During 2007, two researchers spent months living and working on the Rutford Ice Stream in temperatures that dropped as low as -30°C. The ice stream moves towards Antarctica's coast by one metre every day. The science team towed radar equipment back and forth across the ice measuring its thickness, and building up a picture of the landscape beneath. A lubricating mixture of sediment and water beneath the ice assists as it flows towards the ocean, and is sculpted into a series of massive ridges the size of tower blocks and separated by deep furrows. These features ultimately control the flow of the ice stream.

Lead author British Antarctic Survey glaciologist Edward King says,

"It was really exciting to see this beautiful image of the landscape two kilometers below our feet emerge from the data. We are now sure that these amazing sediment formations are created by fast-flowing ice and we are much better placed to understand how ice streams behave and how they might change in the future."

Co-author Dr Chris Stokes from University of Durham has studied similar features in parts of northern Canada which were covered by glaciers 9000 years ago. He says,

"It's interesting to note that the features we see in Canada are the same as those under the Rutford Ice Stream. Until now we could only guess how they were formed. The next step will be to look closer at these features in Canada to see what happened as the glaciers disappeared."

British Antarctic Survey scientists have measured the movement and behaviour of the Rutford Ice Stream for the last 25 years. Technological developments in the past 13 years, including satellites, seismic studies and radar, has led to a much greater understanding of what lies beneath Antarctica's vast ice sheet. There is still much to learn, but the techniques developed for the study will greatly improve scientists' capability to measure how the ice sheet may change in the future.

*The Rutford Ice Stream is also the size of Chesapeake Bay, in the US

Issued by the British Antarctic Survey Press Office
Athena Dinar, Tel: +44 (0)1223 221 414; mobile: 07740 822229 email: amdi@bas.ac.uk;

Linda Capper, Tel: ++44 (0) 1223 221448; mobile: 07714 233744 email: lmca@bas.ac.uk

Authors: Dr Edward King, Tel: ++44 (0) 1223 221580; mobile: 07900 910200 email: ecki@bas.ac.uk

Notes for Editors:

Stunning broadcast-quality footage and stills of Antarctica, as well as location maps are available from the BAS Press Office as above. Formation of mega-scale glacial lineations observed beneath a West Antarctic ice stream by E. C. King, R.C. Hindmarsh and C.R. Stokes is published online this week in the journal Nature Geoscience.

King and a field assistant spent two months in the 'deep field' over 1,000 kms from the nearby BAS Rothera Research Station. They lived under canvas and worked in temperatures often as low at -30°C. Weather permitting they drove their snowmobiles, fitted with radar equipment, 18 kms up the ice stream – doing this 35 times at 500 metre intervals – clocking up over 1200 kms in total.

WAIS contains 13% of all the ice on the Antarctic continent. Studying the flow of ice in Antarctica is important to understanding if the ice sheet is in balance. This means that the rate of snowfall (ice accumulated) equals the amount of ice discharged into the sea through glaciers and then ice bergs. The WAIS is not currently in balance.

Ice streams – are like gigantic rivers of ice. They can be as much as a few hundred km long, tens of km wide, and they typically move by a metre or more every day. Almost all of the ice from the interior of the Antarctic Ice Sheet is drained towards the sea through these ice streams. As the ice enters the ocean, it forms large floating ice shelves. The ice streams can be considered to form the link between the ocean and the more slowly moving ice in the interior of the Antarctic continent. Understanding what controls the flow of ice streams is considered to be of key importance for predicting the future behaviour of the Antarctic ice sheet.

A glacier – is a 'river of ice' that is fed by the accumulation of snow. Glaciers drain ice from the mountains to lower levels, where the ice either melts, breaks away into the sea as icebergs, or feeds into an ice shelf.

Ice sheet – is the huge mass of ice, up to 4 km thick, that covers Antarctica's bedrock. It flows from the centre of the continent towards the coast where it feeds ice shelves.

Ice shelf – is the floating extension of the grounded ice sheet. It is composed of freshwater ice that originally fell as snow, either in situ or inland and brought to the ice shelf by glaciers. As they are already floating, any disintegration will have no impact on sea level. Sea level will rise only if the ice held back by the ice shelf flows more quickly onto the sea.

The Cambridge-based British Antarctic Survey (BAS) is a world leader in research into global environmental issues. With an annual budget of around £45 million, five Antarctic Research Stations, two Royal Research Ships and five aircraft, BAS undertakes an interdisciplinary research programme and plays an active and influential role in Antarctic affairs. BAS has joint research projects with over 40 UK universities and has more than 120 national and international collaborations. It is a component of the Natural Environment Research Council.

Athena Dinar | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.bas.ac.uk
http://www.antarctica.ac.uk

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht PR of MCC: Carbon removal from atmosphere unavoidable for 1.5 degree target
22.05.2018 | Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC) gGmbH

nachricht Monitoring lava lake levels in Congo volcano
16.05.2018 | Seismological Society of America

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

Im Focus: Dozens of binaries from Milky Way's globular clusters could be detectable by LISA

Next-generation gravitational wave detector in space will complement LIGO on Earth

The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...

Im Focus: Entangled atoms shine in unison

A team led by Austrian experimental physicist Rainer Blatt has succeeded in characterizing the quantum entanglement of two spatially separated atoms by observing their light emission. This fundamental demonstration could lead to the development of highly sensitive optical gradiometers for the precise measurement of the gravitational field or the earth's magnetic field.

The age of quantum technology has long been heralded. Decades of research into the quantum world have led to the development of methods that make it possible...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Research reveals how order first appears in liquid crystals

23.05.2018 | Life Sciences

Space-like gravity weakens biochemical signals in muscle formation

23.05.2018 | Life Sciences

NIST puts the optical microscope under the microscope to achieve atomic accuracy

23.05.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>