Guest post by David Middleton
Deep Bore Into Antarctica Finds Freezing Ice, Not Melting as Expected
Scientists will leave sensors in the hole to better understand the long-term changes in the ice, which may have big implications for global sea level.
By Douglas Fox
PUBLISHED FEBRUARY 16, 2018
Scientists have peered into one of the least-explored swaths of ocean on Earth, a vast region located off the coast of West Antarctica.
The surprises began almost as soon as a camera was lowered into the first borehole, around December 1. The undersides of ice shelves are usually smooth due to gradual melting. But as the camera passed through the bottom of the hole, it showed the underside of the ice adorned with a glittering layer of flat ice crystals—like a jumble of snowflakes—evidence that in this particular place, sea water is actually freezing onto the base of the ice instead of melting it.
“It blew our minds,” says Christina Hulbe, a glaciologist from the University of Otago in New Zealand, who co-led the expedition. The Ross Ice Shelf is considered more stable, at present, than many of West Antarctica’s other floating shelves—and this observation could help explain that: if a few inches of sea water periodically freezes onto the bottom of its ice, this could buffer it from thinning more rapidly.
“It blew our minds”… Of course it blew their minds. It always blows their minds when it’s not worse than previously expected. The climate science community probably has more blown minds per capita than UC Berkeley did in 1969.