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An illustration of flowing water below the Antarctic ice sheet. Blue dots point out lakes, traces present rivers. Marie Byrd Land is a part of the bulging “elbow” resulting in the Antarctic Peninsula, left middle,(Photo: NSF/Zina Deretsky)

Antarctica is getting slightly scorching below the collar.

Just below the frozen wasteland of the world’s coldest continent are some critically scorching rocks, that are serving to to soften its ice sheet and create lakes and rivers, a examine discovered.  

How scorching? Try 1,800 levels. The warmth produced by the scorching scorching rocks — formally generally known as a mantle plume — was measured at 150 milliwatts per sq. meter. That’s not removed from the warmth produced below Yellowstone National Park, which is measured at about 200 milliwatts per sq. meter.

The examine is among the many first to say mantle plume exists below Marie Byrd Land, a portion of West Antarctica. Study lead creator Helene Seroussi of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory thought it was “crazy” that it will be there: “I didn’t see how we could have that amount of heat and still have ice on top of it,” she mentioned.

The purpose of the examine was to determine how the ice sheet was in a position to keep frozen with such a heat mantle plume beneath and to find out the quantity of warmth offered by the plume to the bottom of the ice sheet.

Although the warmth supply isn’t a brand new or rising risk to the West Antarctic ice sheet, it might badist clarify why the ice sheet collapsed quickly some 11,000 years in the past and why it is so unstable right now, Seroussi mentioned.

Additionally, understanding the sources and way forward for the meltwater below West Antarctica is necessary for estimating the speed at which ice could also be misplaced to the ocean sooner or later, she added.

This examine isn’t linked to the latest iceberg calving occasion in Larsen C or the change in Antarctic sea ice, Seroussi mentioned.

The mantle plume has been current on this area for over 50 million years, so it existed earlier than the onset of the Antarctic ice sheet. “However, the presence of the plume is important, as it suggests the ice is more vulnerable in this area: this additional heat warms the ice, which suggests greater weakness in the face of future and past changes in the environment,” she added. 

The examine was printed within the peer-reviewed Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth.

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