Why the Mysterious Appearance of Blue Lakes, 80-Mile Ice Cracks are Warning Signs for Antarctica
The recent activity in Antarctica may seem innocuous, but they can spell disaster. From stunning lakes to expanding cracks, find out how the region is in danger as an effect of the rapidly rising heat.
New Blue Lakes Can Destabilize the Ice Sheets, Lead to Disintegration
Beautiful lakes don't usually mean doom. However, in this case, it might. According to a report from Science Alert, nearly 8,000 lakes had formed on the ice sheets of East Antarctica from 2000 to 2013. Some of these superglacial lakes seem to be draining into the floating ice below, which can compromise the stability of the ice shelf.
Scientists suggest that this phenomenon could be one of the reasons for the loss of Greenland's ice sheets. The region was recorded to have lost about one trillion tonnes of ice just between 2011 and 2014.
Chris Mooney explained in a report from Washington Post that these superglacial lakes are created in the summer months when temperatures rise. Thousands have been recorded, but the lakes don't last long. The best case scenario is it refreezes, but it can also disappear by draining through the floating ice or overflowing and draining into the ice below as well.
The draining lakes can render the ice sheets and ice shelves weaker and get them disintegrating even more rapidly.
East Antarctica used to be considered the most stable part of the continent, but climate change has turned the tables on the region. Scientists found a direct correlation between the temperature and the appearance of lakes with hotter months yielding a higher number of lakes.
A Chunk the Size of Delaware Could Break Away From Larsen C and Raise Sea Levels
Lakes aren't the only danger currently plaguing the ice shelves of the continent. A separate report from Washington Post reveals that there is a widening crack on Antarctica's fourth largest ice shelf called Larsen C, an activity that's a growing concern to the scientists tracking its progression.
This particular ice shelf is so big that it's nearly as big as Scotland. Unfortunately, the crack is growing longer and wider through the years. Now the rift is 130 kilometers or 80 miles long.
Researchers from Project MIDAS said this could mean a massive chunk of Larsen C could break off from the ice shelf, likely around 6,000 square kilometers or 2,316 square miles -- practically as big as Delaware. The loss of such a huge section could distabilize the ice shelf and cause further loss of mass, especially when coupled with warm temperatures creating superglacial lakes on the surface.
If this huge chunk does break off, the activity could indirectly raise sea levels by causing the seaward flow of the non-floating ice behind it to go more quickly.