The curious case of the ‘singing’ Antarctic ice shelf
The curious case of the ‘singing’ Antarctic ice shelf
Scientists Just Detected Some Very Odd Noises Coming From An Antarctic Ice Sheet
20 October, 2018, 09:26
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.
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.
Mr Chaput and his team were using seismic sensors to learn more about the structure and movements of the Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctica's largest floating slab of ice, when they picked up the noises.
Studying these vibrations could give scientists a sense of how the Ice Shelf is responding to changing climate conditions, according to glaciologist Douglas MacAyeal from the University of Chicago, who was not connected with the study.
One of the researchers, Julien Chaput of Colorado State University, said: "It's kind of like you're blowing a flute, constantly, on the ice shelf", with each note change indicating a major structural change.
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The American Geo-Physical Union released the recording of the Ross Ice Shelf after scientists buried 34 ultra sensitive seismic sensors to study the crust and mantle underneath. Should the shelf's structural integrity diminish, Antarctica could experience accelerated melting, resulting in a dramatic rise is global sea levels.
The sound changes as weather conditions changes, which the researchers say can track changes such as storms, and more importantly, changes in air temperatures.
The Ross Ice Shelf, fed by glaciers from the Antarctic interior, stretches 193,363 square miles across the Southern Ocean. They also noticed a drop in pitch of the sounds during a warm spell when some of the snow melted.
Chaput told Global News that now, ice shelf monitoring is limited to satellite sweeps, which are few and far between.
"That's essentially the two forcing effects we can observe".
"Basically, what we have on our hands is a tool to monitor the environment, really", he added. Shifts in the ice's vibrational frequencies could reveal the early formation of cracks or melt ponds - signs of structural instability. In 2002, so suddenly collapsed ice shelf Larsen.
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