Winter 2018 PEG


THE UPS, THE DOWNS, THE DISAPPEARANCES Research in Antarctica keeps uncoving new mysteries.

UPS AND DOWNS IN ANTARCTICA The bedrock underneath Antarctica is rising faster than ever recorded, at 41 millimetres per year, new research has found. We don’t think the penguins have noticed, but this is not exactly uplifting news for the continent: thinning ice (thanks, global warming) is likely responsible. Melting ice reduces the weight of the ice cap, allowing the bedrock below to be pushed up by the viscous mantle in a rebound effect. There’s one upside to this, however, says a story about the research, on the site Live Science . Rising bedrock may help stabilize remaining ice sheets. But it’s also likely the rising earth has skewed satellite measurements and resulted in scientists underestimating the ice loss at Antarctica by as much as 10 per cent. The study suggests that major changes to bedrock caused by vanishing ice happen far faster than previously thought—as quickly as centuries or even decades, rather than many thousands of years. The research comes out of DTU Space, which is the National Space Institute at the Technical University of Denmark.


In other Antarctic news, a new study suggests that large lakes thought to flow beneath the continent’s Recovery Glacier have mysteriously disappeared. Live Science reports that a network of lakes was thought to exist between the base of the ice and the bedrock below, helping explain changes to the ice surface and how the glacier flows to the sea. Scientists from Germany discovered the apparent absence of the lakes while conducting aerial studies to better understand the area’s topography. Using radar, the team measured different aspects of the glacier and were stymied when their data suggested the lakes were gone, contradicting satellite evidence. “They’re probably not there,” said study leader Angelika Humbert of the Alfred Wegener Institute’s Helmholtz Center for Polar and Marine Research. Since the technology has some limitations, researchers plan to trek to the site—which is 800 kilometres from the nearest scientific outpost—to gather more evidence. There, they will detonate small batches of explosives in the ice, to use seismic waves to measure the structures below.

38 | PEG WINTER 2018

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