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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

1.5 Cubic Miles of Water

lakes under the Antarctic ice cap drain into the ocean

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Wednesday, July 3, 2013/Categories: natural history, environment, climate change

Freshwater lakes exist under the Antarctic ice cap. They are being investigated for their role in ice dynamics, hydrology, and microbiology of the continent. One of those under-ice reservoirs collapsed recently in a massive flood leaving an ice-crater on the surface. Using radar data from the European Space Agency's CryoSat oribter, that peered under the 2-mile thick ice cover, upwards of 1.5 cubic miles of water was determined to have released into the ocean.

According to Dr Malcolm McMillan, a researcher at the UK's Center for Earth Observation, the drained lake: "covered an area of about 100 sq miles, which is about the size of Edinburgh, and was as much as 230 feet deep.” For perspective, the staggering volume of released water would have been 42,000 gallons per second or close to flow rate of the Colorado River.


  
Under-ice Lake, Antarctica (credit: ESA)         Ice-collapse Crater, Antarctica (credit: ESA)

The radar data is still being analyzed for the overall implications to Antarctic hydrology and the potential role of CO2 induced ocean temperature increases may have played in the under-ice dynamics. One of the other researchers noted: "there are nearly 400 of these sub-glacial lakes so there's a chance a handful of them are draining each year, and that needs to be considered."

The new Antarctic research has been published in Geophysical Research Letters.

WHB


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