Mysterious Radioactive Rocks Lurking Beneath Antartica are Causing Ice to Melt Quickly

There is something really strange lurking beneath Antartica’s thick Ice Layers that is causing the ice to melt unexpectedly quickly.

Scientists have discovered an area near the South Pole of our planet where Antarctica’s Ice Sheet base is melting at an accelerated rate.

To understand what was going on, scientists used radar to peer through three km of ice.

They found that some of the ice, that covers an area nearly as large as Paris, is missing.

Scientists say that strange amount of geothermal heat has caused the base of the ice sheet to melt.

The source, say, experts, are a combination of unusual radioactive rocks, as well as a large amount of hot water emerging from deep beneath the surface.

Using data collected by a BAS aircraft as part of the PolarGAP project, scientists found that the heat is causing the ice sheet to melt, creating melt-water that which drains away beneath the ice sheet filling subglacial lakes downstream.

This graphic shows how scientists used aerial radar to map the ice sheet and bed, and discover what was causing the ice to melt. Image Credit: Dr. Tom Jordan.
This graphic shows how scientists used aerial radar to map the ice sheet and bed and discover what was causing the ice to melt. Image Credit: Dr. Tom Jordan.

“The process of melting we observe has probably been going on for thousands or maybe even millions of years and isn’t directly contributing to ice sheet change. However, in the future, the extra water at the ice sheet bed may make this region more sensitive to external factors such as climate change,” lead author Dr. Tom Jordan from British Antarctic Survey (BAS) explained.

The international project, funded by the European Space Agency (ESA) includes researchers from Norway, Denmark, and the UK. Scientists used the data to fill in the gap in satellite gravity data around our planet’s South Pole.

Furthermore, scientists also successfully collected radar data that helped understand the structure, conditions, and thickness of the base of the ice sheet.

Their findings have been published in the journal Scientific Reports.

“This was a really exciting project, exploring one of the last totally un-surveyed regions on our planet. Our results were quite unexpected, as many people thought this region of Antarctica was made of ancient and cold rocks, which had little impact on the ice sheet above. We show that even in the ancient continental interior, the underlying geology can have a significant impact on the ice,” added Dr. Jornda.

Source
Scientific Reports
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