Scientists find tower-high channel beneath Antarctica ice shelf

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Originally published on October 8, 2013

UK scientists have found huge ice channels under the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf in West Antarctica. Giant channels of water said to be almost as tall as the Eiffel Tower are flowing beneath the ice shelf.

The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Exeter and colleagues from Newcastle University and the University of Bristol. They used satellite images and airborne radar measurements to find meltwater channels. It was reported that one of the newly discovered ice-channels was about 250 meters high and 300 meters wide, similar in height to the Eiffel Tower and Tower Bridge of London in width.

The study shows that once the cold melt water from the ice shelf reaches the sea, it forms a plume and warms the surrounding sea water. The warmed water then wears a channel into the floating ice of the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf. Previously, it was believed that melt water which builds up on land would flow into the sea in a thin layer, rather than in concentrated channels.

It was reported that the scientists believe ice channels play an important role in stabilizing the ice shelf. This discovery can help researchers understand how Antarctica will respond to climate change in the future.

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