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Scientists discover an ancient rock structure that hides under the Antarctic and moves the ice



Deep beneath the frozen wastelands of Antarctica, scientists have discovered ancient tectonic plate structures that have a major impact on the melting patterns in the continental largest ice shelf.

The Hidden Rock, which has been around for hundreds of millions of years, controls the flow of water around the gigantic Ross Ice Shelf. This shelf is currently acting as a critical buffer preventing more Antarctic ice from leaking into the vast ocean.

Researchers discovered the rock thanks to the observations of the IcePod, a special scanning system that measures the height, thickness and internal structure of the ice shelf and the magnetic and gravitational signals of the underlying rock.

Essentially, the IcePod can see through hundreds of meters (thousands of feet) of ice to detect underlying rock structures that satellites can not detect.

 Ross Ice 2 A glimpse of the Ross Ice Shelf by IcePod. (Winnie Chu)

As researchers report in their recent study, a geological boundary between the eastern and western Antarctic has created a subdivision of the continent that protects the Ross ice shelf from warmer waters and more Melt.

"We were able to see that the geological boundary makes the seabed much deeper on the East Antarctic side than in the west and influences the way the seawater circulates under the ice shelf," says marine geologist Kirsty Tinto of Columbia University.

With the Ross Ice Shelf slowing down the drift of about 20 percent of Antarctic grounded ice into the ocean, equivalent to a global sea level rise of about 11.6 meters or 38 feet, this is an important finding.

In collecting geological data and computer modeling, the team found that the tectonic dividing line prevents warmer water from reaching the shelf line of the ice shelf and communicates with the seabed there. In the summer months, the melting of the shelf along its eastern edge which is partly due to an open water region known as the Ross Shelf Polynya.

Ice is sensitive to changes in the processes along the ice front, eg. For example, there may be an increase in warming in the summer when the sea ice or the clouds decrease, "says glaciologist Laurie Padman of the Earth & Space Research organization in Seattle.

The future melting patterns in the Antarctic and their impact on the rest of our To understand planets, detailed data is required not only on local, short-term conditions near the ice front, but also on other aspects, long-term changes in the circulation of deep warm water.

And that is the goal of the ongoing ROSETTA Ice The project, which is involved in this new study, continues to observe and measure the melting patterns around the Ross Ice Shelf, which occupies approximately the same area as France – approximately 480,000 square kilometers.

"To understand the Antarctic and its functioning, We must consider the ice, the ocean, the atmosphere and the geology and how they travel over different distances and time scales, "says glaciologist Helen Amanda Fricker of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California.

"ROSETTA-Ice is a great example of versatility An interdisciplinary team can come together to explore a complex system and change our understanding of how it works."

The study was published in Nature Geoscience released.


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