Researchers discover a river of more than 460 km under Antarctica and warn of the acceleration of the melting

Researchers have discovered a subglacial river system in Antarctica. The phenomenon would have many repercussions on the melting of the sea ice.

A river flowing under Antarctica. This is the recent discovery of a group of researchers who have just published their findings in Nature Geoscience. The ice continent would host a river about 460 km long and with many branches in its icy bowels. A discovery of the first importance that confirms and partly explains the melting of certain areas of Antarctica.

“When we first discovered the lakes under the ice of Antarctica a few decades ago, we thought they were isolated from each other. Now we are beginning to understand that there are entire systems, interconnected by vast river systems, as they might be if there weren’t thousands. meters of ice on themexplained Martin Siegert, a glaciologist at the Grantham Institute of Imperial College London and co-author of the new study, reports the Science alert site.

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A rapid flow to the Southern Ocean

This river has several consequences: it not only speeds up the melting of the ice as the climate warms, but also promotes its flow and speed of flow. The researchers behind the study cross-referenced radar readings and numerical models of water flow over the area of ​​the eastern and western ice sheets, where water flows from the Weddell Sea into the Southern Ocean. The flow there is about 24 m3 per second. “The region on which this study is based has enough ice to raise global sea levels by 4.3 meters if it were to melt completely.”explains Martin Siegert.

A flow of 24 m3/s in 460 km

The amount and speed with which ice melts are related to how slippery the ice is. And the subglacial river, formed by fresh water at high pressure, would further intensify the process. As it melts, the base of the glacier loses stability, which accentuates the melting phenomenon. Furthermore, by becoming thinner, the thickness of the ice also melts more rapidly and directly threatens the structure of the sea ice.

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The team is continuing their research to collect more data on the effect of all these mechanisms combined. Ultimately, it’s about anticipating and understanding how these changes in Antarctica could change the planet.

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