Photo 15 Sep 74 notes Remote Antarctic Trek Reveals A Glacier Melting From Below

Scientists watching Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier from space have noticed with some alarm that it has been surging toward the sea. If it were to melt entirely, global sea levels would rise by several feet. The glacier is really, really remote. It’s 1,800 miles from McMurdo, the U.S. base station in Antarctica, so just getting there is a challenge. Scientists have rarely been able to get out to the glacier to make direct measurements….
The team’s challenge was to drill down through the ice sheet, which is twice as thick as the Golden Gate Bridge is tall. Melting those holes involved heating up a metal rod and circulating hot fluid through hoses to the rod, as it gradually ate its way down through the ice. “Everybody was shlepping hose,” Stanton says. “They needed lots of support, so that’s what we did during the drilling phase. As soon as the hole was through, we immediately started deploying instruments.” In particular, Stanton wanted to measure the currents flowing right under the ice sheet. He wanted to test how salty the water was, and to find out how quickly the ice was being eaten away by the comparatively warm seawater. They also grabbed a sample of the mud from the seafloor below….
Their instruments showed that meltwater from the glacier was flowing rapidly toward the open ocean, and cutting into the ice above as it went. “I was surprised by how much like a river this was. It’s a river, but instead of eroding a channel, it’s melting a channel,” Shaw says. And it turns out that channel is melting very fast. As they report in Science magazine, the ice in that channel was disappearing at the rate of 2 inches a day. Stanton said their measurement is consistent with what scientists had inferred from satellite measurements.
"Don’t forget, this happens day in and day out," he says. "We saw no changes over the 35 days that we were reporting on in this paper. It’s a phenomenally high melt rate compared to what we observe in the Arctic, for example." At the moment, it’s contributing a tiny amount to rising sea levels. But the melting has been accelerating in recent years, and if it keeps accelerating, in the very long run, the Pine Island Glacier could add several feet to global sea levels.

(via WBUR & NPR)

Remote Antarctic Trek Reveals A Glacier Melting From Below

Scientists watching Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier from space have noticed with some alarm that it has been surging toward the sea. If it were to melt entirely, global sea levels would rise by several feet. The glacier is really, really remote. It’s 1,800 miles from McMurdo, the U.S. base station in Antarctica, so just getting there is a challenge. Scientists have rarely been able to get out to the glacier to make direct measurements….

The team’s challenge was to drill down through the ice sheet, which is twice as thick as the Golden Gate Bridge is tall. Melting those holes involved heating up a metal rod and circulating hot fluid through hoses to the rod, as it gradually ate its way down through the ice. “Everybody was shlepping hose,” Stanton says. “They needed lots of support, so that’s what we did during the drilling phase. As soon as the hole was through, we immediately started deploying instruments.” In particular, Stanton wanted to measure the currents flowing right under the ice sheet. He wanted to test how salty the water was, and to find out how quickly the ice was being eaten away by the comparatively warm seawater. They also grabbed a sample of the mud from the seafloor below….

Their instruments showed that meltwater from the glacier was flowing rapidly toward the open ocean, and cutting into the ice above as it went. “I was surprised by how much like a river this was. It’s a river, but instead of eroding a channel, it’s melting a channel,” Shaw says. And it turns out that channel is melting very fast. As they report in Science magazine, the ice in that channel was disappearing at the rate of 2 inches a day. Stanton said their measurement is consistent with what scientists had inferred from satellite measurements.

"Don’t forget, this happens day in and day out," he says. "We saw no changes over the 35 days that we were reporting on in this paper. It’s a phenomenally high melt rate compared to what we observe in the Arctic, for example." At the moment, it’s contributing a tiny amount to rising sea levels. But the melting has been accelerating in recent years, and if it keeps accelerating, in the very long run, the Pine Island Glacier could add several feet to global sea levels.

(via WBUR & NPR)

#Antarctica #Pine Island Glacier #climate change #sea level rise #glacier #science #geology #environment

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