Although research in Antarctica is “thriving” according to LiveScience.com, we still have a lot to learn about the icy, southernmost continent- and some Antarctic quake waves may hold the key to discovering more about what, exactly, is under all that ice and what the continent’s patterns say about climate change.
The site explains how researchers like seismologist Doug Wiens hope to investigate the continent’s sub-surface areas to up to 60 miles under, as there are “certain qualities about Antarctica that make it particularly interesting.” Wiens is a professor of Earth and planetary science at St. Louis, Missouri’s Washington University, and he explains how Antarctica’s quake waves can facilitate exploration of the land mass’ depth for seismologists and researchers:
“…the whole continent is pushed down. If you melted all the ice off, it would move back up… We think hot areas of the mantle will flow easier, so they’ll pop up faster… Sort of like molasses you’ve put in the freezer. It doesn’t flow, so it won’t pop up very fast.”
Heat distribution and “flow from mantle to crust” is also likely to be of interest to seismologists, and glacier flow has been observed at faster rates in recent years, possible due to warming oceans. Wiens says:
“It might have a big effect on the ice sheet and might explain some observations… If you have a large heat flow from the mantle in a given area, it may form water at the bottom of the ice sheet… We do see these big variations in the temperature in the mantle across parts of Antarctica that will have a big effect on the ice sheet.”
It is expected to be at least a few months before researchers can reach some conclusions about what lies under Antarctica’s ice.