Great Flood A'Coming? 'Ominous' Sounds of Melting Antarctic Ice Registered

The Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica

As wind blows across the shelf's snow dunes, the snow layers and thick slab of floating ice beneath vibrates, producing low-pitched humming patterns.

With this newfound ability, researchers could use seismic stations to continuously monitor the conditions on ice shelves nearly in real time, allowing us to see how the ice shelf's snow jacket is responding to changing climate conditions.

Because the Ross Ice Shelf acts as a stopper, slowing the advance of interior ice toward the open ocean, scientists are keen to understand the ice shelf's dynamics.

To study the ice shelf's physical characteristics, scientists buried sensitive seismometers beneath the snow to record the shelf's changing vibrations.


If you're still hunting for a soundtrack for your Halloween party, what about this ghostly tune by the Ross Ice Shelf?

The resulting data showed something odd: the "fur coat" snow layer that protects the ice from heat was constantly "singing", or vibrating.

Mr Chaput and his team were using seismic sensors to learn more about the structure and movements of the Ross Ice Shelf. From the data collected, they found the whipping of the winds across snow dunes caused rumbling in the snow blanket. "We find that the frequencies and other features of this singing change, both as storms alter the snow dunes and during a (January 2016) warming event that resulted in melting in the ice shelf's near surface". Shifts in the ice's vibrational frequencies could reveal the early formation of cracks or melt ponds - signs of structural instability.

"Melting of the firn is broadly considered one of the most important factors in the destabilization of an ice shelf, which then accelerates the streaming of ice into the ocean from abutting ice sheets", Julien Chaput, a geophysicist at the University of Texas-El Paso, told Earther. They posted the eerie sounds online, along with a Geophysical Research Letters report on their greater research. "And its impact on the ice shelf".

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