Scientists discover hidden lakes of melt water under the ice of Antarctica

Scientists discover hidden lakes of melt water under the ice of Antarctica
Scientists discover hidden lakes of melt water under the ice of Antarctica
Anonim

Antarctica may appear to be a static environment: a still, white landscape, frozen in immobility. But there is much more going on under the ice than we think - even if you need to travel into space to be sure.

Scientists made just such a discovery more than a decade ago when analysis of data from NASA's ICESat satellite showed that fluctuations in ice height in West Antarctica reflected the movement of a huge mass of subglacial water beneath the ice sheet.

Prior to this discovery, hidden lakes of melt water - deeply buried at the bottom of the ice sheet, where ice meets the continental rock below it - were thought to exist in isolation, cut off from each other.

But in 2007, researchers found that fluctuations in the height of Antarctica's surface ice indicate movement of water flowing between a hidden network of subglacial lakes, which alternately fill and drain before their water flows into the Southern Ocean.

Now, the continuation of the ICESat mission - the ICESat-2 satellite, launched in 2018 - allows scientists to better see this mysterious, deeply hidden network of lakes and discover two previously undiscovered lakes.

"The discovery of these interconnected systems of lakes at the edge of the ice bottom that move water, influencing glaciology, microbiology and oceanography was a big discovery for the ICESat mission," says glaciologist Matthew Siegfried of the Colorado Mining Academy.

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