"No one has ever seen anything with such regularity," said Lucas K. Zoet, recent Penn State Ph. D. recipient, now a postdoctoral fellow at Iowa State University. "An earthquake every 25 minutes for a year."
The researchers looked at seismic activity recorded during the Transantarctic Mountains Seismic Experiment from 2002 to 2003 on the David Glacier in Antarctica, coupled with data from the Global Seismic Network station Vanda. They found that the local earthquakes on the David Glacier, about 20,000 identified, were predominantly the same and occurred every 25 minutes give or take five minutes.
The researchers note in the current Nature Geoscience that, "The remarkable similarity of the waveforms … indicates that they share the same source location and source mechanisms." They suggest that "the same subglacial asperity repeatedly ruptures in response to steady loading from the overlying ice, which is modulated by stress from the tide at the glacier front."
"Our leading idea is that part of the bedrock is poking through the ductile till layer beneath the glacier," said Zoet.
The researchers have determined that the asperity -- or hill -- is about a half mile in diameter.
The glacier, passing over the hill, creates a stick slip situation much like that on the San Andreas fault. The ice sticks on the hill and stress gradually builds until the energy behind the obstruction is high enough to move the ice forward. The ice moves in a step-by-step manner rather than smoothly.
But motion toward the sea is not the only thing acting on the ice streaming from David glacier. Like most glaciers near oceans, the edge of the ice floats out over the water and the floating ice is subject to the action of tides.
"When the tide comes in it pushes back on the ice, making the time between slips slightly longer," said Sridhar Anandakrishnan, professor of geoscience. "When the tide goes out, the time between slips decreases."
However, the researchers note that the tides are acting at the ground line, a long way from the location of the asperity and therefore the effects that shorten or lengthen the stick slip cycle are delayed.
"This was something we didn't expect to see," said Richard B. Alley, Evan Pugh Professor of Geosciences. "Seeing it is making us reevaluate the basics."
He also noted that these glacial earthquakes, besides helping glaciologists understand the way ice moves, can provide a simple model for the stick slip earthquakes that occur between landmasses.
"We have not completely explained how ice sheets flow unless we can reproduce this effect," said Alley. "We can use this as a probe and look into the physics so we better understand how glaciers move."
Before 2002, this area of the David glacier flowed smoothly, but then for nearly a year the 20-minute earthquake intervals occurred and then stopped. Something occurred at the base of the ice to start and then stop these earthquakes.
"The best idea we have is that during those 300 days, a dirty patch of ice was in contact with the mount, changing the way stress was transferred," said Zoet. "The glacier is experiencing earthquakes again, although at a different rate. It would be nice to study that."
Unfortunately, the seismographic instruments that were on the glacier in 2002 no longer exist, and information is coming from only one source at the moment.
The National Science Foundation supported this work.
A'ndrea Elyse Messer | EurekAlert!
Volcanoes and glaciers combine as powerful methane producers
20.11.2018 | Lancaster University
Massive impact crater from a kilometer-wide iron meteorite discovered in Greenland
15.11.2018 | Faculty of Science - University of Copenhagen
Innsbruck quantum physicists have constructed a diode for magnetic fields and then tested it in the laboratory. The device, developed by the research groups led by the theorist Oriol Romero-Isart and the experimental physicist Gerhard Kirchmair, could open up a number of new applications.
Electric diodes are essential electronic components that conduct electricity in one direction but prevent conduction in the opposite one. They are found at the...
Max Planck researchers revel the nano-structure of molecular trains and the reason for smooth transport in cellular antennas.
Moving around, sensing the extracellular environment, and signaling to other cells are important for a cell to function properly. Responsible for those tasks...
Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.
Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...
Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.
Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...
Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.
In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...
19.11.2018 | Event News
09.11.2018 | Event News
06.11.2018 | Event News
21.11.2018 | Life Sciences
21.11.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering
21.11.2018 | Life Sciences