A new study into Antarctica has startingly revealed a massive hot spot lurking below the ice. However, according to researchers, it’s not anything to be concerned about.
The study, which was released this week in the journal, Scientific Reports, reveals that while the heat may not be concerning scientists just yet, it has managed to cause a significant divot in the landscape.
The British Antarctic Survey team used radar data obtained from a BAS aircraft as part of the PolarGAP project. This data revealed the “thickness, structure, and conditions at the base of the ice sheet,” according to a statement released on the matter.
The area in question measures roughly 100-by-50 kilometers (62-by-31 mile). The study has found that this sagging landscape is a result of geothermal heat that has been continuously melting ice over a long period of time. This layer of geothermally heated water then drains away to subglacial lakes downstream, causing the divot in the landscape. It may also be responsible for fast-flowing ice located in the area.
Dr. Tom Jordan from the British Antarctic Survey, and a lead author in the study, released the following statement on the findings.
“The process of melting we observe has probably been going on for thousands or maybe even millions of years and isn’t directly contributing to ice sheet change. However, in the future the extra water at the ice sheet bed may make this region more sensitive to external factors such as climate change.”
In addition to the geothermal heat, the hot spot is also likely being caused by “unusually radioactive rocks in the Earth’s upper crust,” according to IFL Science.
“Our results were quite unexpected, as many people thought this region of Antarctica was made of ancient and cold rocks, which had little impact on the ice sheet above,” Dr. Jordan explained.
“We show that even in the ancient continental interior, the underlying geology can have a significant impact on the ice.”
This study of the hot spot underneath Antarctica also aimed to “fill in the gaps” in relation to a recent study of the area that led to the discovery of long-lost continents, as previously reported by the Inquisitr.
Co-author Dr. Rene Forsberg, from the Technical University of Denmark, also said that it was “an example of how a project – originally designed to augment satellite data for the European Space Agency, could produce completely unexpected scientific results.”