Massive ice channels found beneath Antarctic ice shelf

antarctic-ice-sheetBy James Fluere

According to a news release from the University of Exeter, scientists have found massive ice channels beneath a floating Antarctic ice shelf. The scientists note that at 250 meters high, the channels are nearly as tall as France’s Eiffel tower and expand for hundreds of kilometers along the ice shelf.

According to the scientists, the channels are likely to impact the durability of the ice shelf and their finding will assist researchers in their quest to learn more about how the ice will react to altering environmental conditions in the coming years.

Scientists from the University of Exeter, Newcastle University, the University of Bristol, the University of Edinburgh, the British Antarctic Survey and the University of York, utilized satellite pictures and airborne radar data to discover the channels under the ice shelf. The channels can be spotted on the surface of the ice shelf, as well as underneath, due to the fact that ice floats at a varying height based on its thickness.

The scientists forecasted the course of meltwater moving under the part of the ice making contact with the land – called the ice sheet. They found that the forecasted flow courses lined up with the channels under the ice shelf at the point where the ice begins to float.

The match-up suggests that the water movement beneath the grounded ice sheet is responsible for the development of the channels beneath the floating ice shelf. When the meltwater moving under the ice sheet invades the ocean beneath the ice shelf, it forces a plume of ocean water to develop, which then melts out the massive channels under the ice shelf.

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