Mar 26, 2019

Australian researchers find huge lakes beneath largest east Antarctic glacier

Antarctica
by
Lisa Martin
,
The Guardian
Scientists have found lakes beneath the Totten glacier. Photo: Paul Winberry, Australian Antarctic Program
Scientists have found lakes beneath the Totten glacier. Photo: Paul Winberry, Australian Antarctic Program

Australian researchers have discovered huge underwater lakes beneath the largest glacier in east Antarctica.

The lakes were detected by scientists setting off small explosives 2m below the surface of the Totten glacier and listening to the reflected sound.

The Australian Antarctic Division glaciologist Dr Ben Galton-Fenzi said the research was critical to helping scientists predict how the melting of Antarctic glaciers would change the world’s oceans.

The Totten glacier is 30km wide and up to two kilometres thick, and has the potential to raise sea levels by seven metres.

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He said the speed glaciers travel at is determined by what they move across.

“If there’s bedrock under the glacier, it’s sticky and will move more slowly, but if there’s water or soft sediments, the glacier will move faster,” he said.