A Strange Noise is Coming from the Antarctic Ice Shelf

20 October, 2018, 17:11 | Author: Dwayne Harmon
  • Winds blowing across snow dunes on Antarctica's Ross Ice Shelf cause the massive ice slab's surface to vibrate producing a near-constant drumroll of seismic'tones scientists could potentially use to monitor changes in the ice shelf from afar according

When they looked at the data, they realized the top layer of the shelf (called the firn) was nearly constantly vibrating, thanks to the winds travelling atop the snow dunes. Antartica is experiencing an accelerating loss of mass from its ice shelves, which act as plugs holding back the world's largest stores of ice from flowing uninhibited into the ocean.

For context, it can sometimes be necessary to dramatically speed up or slow down sounds in order for humans to perceive or bear them - like this slowed-down version of Justin Bieber.

He hopes that adding more seismic sensors can monitor other ice shelves - especially the vulnerable ones. The sensors allowed the researchers to monitor the ice shelf's vibrations and study its structure and movements for over two years, from late 2014 to early 2017.

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Being able to monitor the air temperature is particularly important, Chaput explained, because it could tell us which ice shelves are vulnerable to warming events.

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"It's kind of like you're blowing a flute, constantly, on the ice shelf, ' study lead author Julien Chaput, a geophysicist and mathematician at Colorado State University, said in a statement".

Global warming has caused over three trillion tons of ice to melt from Antarctica in the past quarter-century and tripled ice loss there in the past decade. However, when an Antarctic ice meltdown is recorded, that means the rise of the sea levels.

Just like musicians can change the pitch of a note on a flute by altering which holes air flows through or how fast it flows, weather conditions on the ice shelf can change the frequency of its vibration by altering its dune-like topography, according to Chaput.

But if we deployed seismic sensors on more ice shelfs, you could observe subtle environmental changes, in minutes.

Changes to the ice shelf's "seismic hum" could also indicate whether cracks in the ice are forming that might indicate whether the ice shelf is susceptible to breaking up. Scientists documented the haunting sounds and published their findings in the Geophysical Research Letters on Tuesday.

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