Scientists told about the mysterious phenomenon in Antarctica

Scientists told about the mysterious phenomenon in Antarctica

The barren and desolate Antarctic is an intimidating sight to behold.

"It's kind of like you're blowing a flute, constantly, on the ice shelf", Julien Chaput, a geophysicist and mathematician at Colorado State University, said in a news release.

To better understand the forces at work, Chaput and fellow researchers buried 34 seismic sensors under the deep snow layer that sits atop the Ross Ice Shelf's underlying ice.

The resulting data showed something odd: the "fur coat" snow layer that protects the ice from heat was constantly "singing", or vibrating. The coating thickness of a few meters acts as an insulating layer, protecting the ice from the heat of the sun.

Winds whipping across the massive snow dunes left the shelf's icy covering rumbling like the pounding of a colossal drum.

Chaput told Global News that now, ice shelf monitoring is limited to satellite sweeps, which are few and far between.

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You may want to turn up the volume for this video above, but be warned, what you're about to hear is something very unusual.

Mr Chaput said weather conditions can change the frequency of the vibrations, thereby changing the tune. "And that's essentially the two forcing effects we can observe". This produces a near-constant set of seismic "tones" that are easy to monitor.

The scientists liken it to "singing", but to our ears the creepy dirge of Antarctic ice shelf vibrations sounds more like the sinister score of a horror movie.

Such monitoring is already useful. They found the ice vibrated at different frequencies when strong storms rearranged the snow dunes or when the air temperatures at the surface went up or down, which changed how fast seismic waves traveled through the snow. But when temperatures dropped to their normal freezing levels, the corresponding drop in pitch did not reverse, indicating that permanent changes may have occurred in the blanket.

The response of the ice shelf tells us that we can track extremely sensitive details about it. "Basically, what we have on our hands is a tool to monitor the environment, really".

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