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Antarctic ice shelf makes strange noises



Researchers have discovered strange sounds from an Antarctic ice shelf. The sounds are generated when winds blow over snowy dunes and make ice vibrate. Researchers believe that this scary sound could be used to track changes in the Ice Shelf.

Ross Ice Shelf is the largest ice shelf in the Antarctic, about the size of Texas. The ice shelf is several hundred meters thick and most of its ice is below the water surface. It plays an important role in stabilizing the Antarctic ice sheet and acts as a supporting pillar to hold the ice sheet on the Antarctic continent and resist the ice flow from land to ocean.

Antarctica is one of the fastest warming places on the planet. Its melting ice layers can affect the environment and contribute to sea level rise. As global warming reduces snow cover, many floating ice floes in Antarctica also threaten to collapse and disappear altogether.

To better understand changes in these critical features, the researchers installed 34 extremely sensitive seismic sensors under the snowy surface of the Ross Ice Shelf. The sensors allowed researchers to study the structure and movements of the ice shelf from late 201

4 to early 2017 over two years. When the researchers began to analyze seismic data on the Ross Ice Shelf, they noticed a constant vibration from its surface. They found out that this vibration is caused by snow dunes. The Antarctic ice shelves rumble as the winds whip across the massive snow dunes, like the thumping of a colossal drum.

The sound also changed as weather conditions changed the surface of the snow layer. Researchers noticed differences in frequencies when strong storms changed the shape of the snow dunes or when the surface air temperature rose or fell. Examining the vibrations of an ice shelf could show how the Antarctic reacts to the changing climate.

"It's like blowing a flute on the ice shelf all the time," said lead author Julien Chaput, geophysicist and mathematician at Colorado State University, Fort Collins. "Either you change the speed of the snow by heating or cooling it, or you change where you blow on the flute by adding or destroying dunes, and these are essentially the two forced effects we can observe."


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