The mysterious crater that was found in Antarctica is no longer a mystery, reports Live Science.
The crater was once thought to be the impact site of a meteorite, but now scientists have discovered that it was the result of ice melt.
The hole, which is located in the Roi Baudouin Ice Shelf in East Antarctica, was a collapsed lake. The cavity had formed with the lake’s meltwater began to drain, which then created a vertical drainage passage point on the ice. Researchers found this during a trip in January 2016, says CS Monitor.
Dangerous Moulins Becoming Common
These “moulins” are where the ice rivers plunge into thick sheets of ice and carry the water deep below. These are normal in the Arctic Islands of Greenland, but now they appear in East Antarctica. Antarctica is frigid and remote; therefore, they should not be finding such lakes. In fact, they don’t seem warm temperatures even in the summer, but with climate change, the ice is starting to melt, reports the Washington Post.
Ice Shelf Not Solid Like Once Believed
The East Antarctica ice shelf was once believed to be solid ice, but now researchers have discovered that it is the home of more than 55 liquid lakes.
After they had drilled through the surface of the ice shelf, they found several lakes that were englacial and completely enclosed in ice.
The study was published in the journal Nature Climate Change, and it suggested that these melts could eventually compromise the structural integrity of the entire glacier.
Moulins are not something found in Antarctica, but researchers are familiar with them because they appear in Greenland quite often. They have never been witnessed on an ice shelf before.
Now, researchers have discovered that the ice shelf is more susceptible to melting than previous thought. With the warm winds in the area blowing snow, the team found that the darker surfaces absorb more heat from the sun that the snow-covered areas. That makes them more prone to ice melt. The free ice sheets will not contribute much to sea level increases because they are already in the ocean. However, they do create a backstop to the flowing land-based ice that will eventually feed into the sea.
The Roi Baudouin crater was a mystery. It was originally discovered by satellite on January 2015, when researchers determined it was a meteorite crater. However, scientists started to question if a two-mile wide circle was really from a meteorite, while many assumed it was melting ice.
During their research, they found that the amount of meltwater varies each year, and the area is very sensitive to climate change. The research suggests that now the ice sheet in East Antarctica is just as vulnerable as the West to climate change.
They say that further warming in the area is going to increase the melting already seen and that melting could affect the structural integrity of the entire ice shelf, which was once thought to be solid rock.