Thousands of tiny ice quakes shake Antarctica at night | 3/11/2019 | Eleanor Imster
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Study - Antarctica - McMurdo - Ice - Shelf

In a recent study on Antarctica’s McMurdo Ice Shelf, scientists used seismometers to record hundreds of thousands of tiny “ice quakes” that appear to be caused by pools of partially-melted ice expanding and freezing at night.

University of Chicago glaciologist Douglas MacAyeal is co-author of the study, published in the Annals of Glaciology on December 17, 2018. MacAyeal said in a statement:

Areas - Tens - Hundreds - Thousands - Night

In these areas we would record tens, hundreds, up to thousands of these per night. It’s possible that seismometers may be a practical way for us to remotely monitor glacier melting.

Scientist Becky Goodsell peers at a seismometer. Image via Alison Banwell/University of Chicago.

Meltwater - Lakes - McMurdo - Ice - Shelf

Meltwater lakes on the McMurdo Ice Shelf. Image via

The team set up seismometers for 60 days during the melt season in two locations near seasonal meltwater lakes on the McMurdo Ice Shelf. One location was drier; the other was slushier, with pools of melted water forming and refreezing. The wetter location, they found, was alive with seismic activity at night. MacAyeal explained:

Ponds - Layer - Ice - Top - Water

In these ponds, there’s often a layer of ice on top of melted water below, like you see with a lake that’s only frozen on top....
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