Deep in the ice sheet that covers Antarctica, there is a huge amount of water. The discovery has impressed scientists and reveals a yet unexplored part of the frozen continent, which could have implications for how the region responds to the ongoing climate crisis.
This is the first time that a large amount of liquid water has been found in the sediments under the ice. In recent years, researchers have observed the existence of lakes and rivers crossing the continent, but never before have they discovered groundwater, like this new study published in the journal Science this week.
According to the research’s lead author, Chloe Gustafson, who is a researcher at the University of California, USA, in Antarctica there is 57 meters of sea level rise potential, therefore, it is essential for science to know all the processes of ice and water exchange between the continent and the ocean to better predict what the future of the region will look like.
The authors of the new study spent six weeks mapping the sediments beneath the ice, reports CNN International. During this period, they used instruments placed directly on the surface to perform a technique called “magnetotelluric imaging”, which detects the varying degrees of electromagnetic energy conducted by ice, sediment, fresh water and salt water in the bedrock and creates a map from them. different sources of information.
The discoveries are enormous. According to the researchers’ calculations, if groundwater could be extracted from the mapped sediments and brought to the surface, this water would form a lake with a depth of between 220 and 820 meters.
“In the shallow end, the water would rise to half the size of the Empire State. In the deepest end, there are almost two Empire States stacked on top of each other. This is important for the subglacial lakes that exist in this area today are 2 to 15 meters deep, that’s just one to four floors of the Empire State.
The study points out that ocean water likely reached this subterranean part of Antarctica during a warm period, which occurred between 5,000 and 7,000 years ago, saturating the sediments with salt water. As the ice advanced, cool meltwater produced by pressure from above and friction at the base of the ice was forced into the upper sediments. And, according to the researchers, it likely continues to seep and mix with groundwater even today.
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