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Stay overnight on an Antarctic ice shelf, and you may feel the shaking from thousands of tiny quakes as the ice re-forms after melting during the day.
In a recent study, UChicago scientists placed seismometers on the McMurdo Ice Shelf and recorded hundreds of thousands of tiny "ice quakes" that appear to be caused by pools of partially melted ice expanding and freezing at night. The phenomenon may be able to help scientists track glacier melting—and to help explain the breakup of large ice shelves.
Areas - Tens - Hundreds - Thousands - Night
"In these areas we would record tens, hundreds, up to thousands of these per night," said study co-author Douglas MacAyeal, a professor of geophysical sciences and renowned glaciologist who has been traveling to the Antarctic to study the behavior of ice and snow for decades. "It's possible that seismometers may be a practical way for us to remotely monitor glacier melting."
Climate change is causing the Antarctic to melt, but glaciologists are still mapping how, where and why. There is much we still don't understand about the process—as evidenced by the massive Larsen B ice shelf collapse in 2002, which took glaciologists by surprise—and understanding these mechanisms is key to predicting the future for the ice.
MacAyeal - Team - Role - Quakes - Ice
MacAyeal and the team were interested in the role of "quakes" on the floating ice shelves. (You may remember reports of ice or frost quakes around Chicago and the Midwest during the cold snap caused by the polar vortex weeks ago, when residents reported booms or cracking sounds at night; this is the same mechanism.) But they wondered how often the phenomenon...
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