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Strong geothermal heat flow found under West Antarctic ice sheet


A new study has revealed that a strong geothermal heat flow emanates from its geothermal sources below. The significant amount of heat is travelling upwards, which is linked to the geothermal processes leading toward the base of the ice sheet.west-antarctic-ice-sheet-melting

The heating flow under sediments found in ice sheet were measured by a probe sent by researchers from the University of California, Santa Cruz. However, this heat flow is not the reason for the ice melting and loss mentioned in recent studies. Lead author of the study Andrew Fisher, professor at the University of Santa Cruz, California stated that the ice sheet evolved and developed alongside a geothermal heat flux originating from below that’s been dispersing upwards, which means this is already a part of the system.

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Scott Borg, who heads the Division’s Antarctic sciences section, said in a statement:

“The WISSARD findings, including this latest discovery about geothermal heat,” he said, “are helping us to assemble a deeper understanding of the nature of extreme ecosystems in Antarctica, and, possibly, similar ecosystems elsewhere in the solar system, as well helping us to understand some of the many dynamic processes that govern the behavior of the massive Antarctic ice sheets.”

Fisher added that the effects of global warming led to the unpredictable nature of ice sheets. The team found that the heat flowing towards the base of the West Antarctic ice sheet is much higher than it was expected. The measured geothermal heat flux was around 285 milliwatts per square meter, and Fisher compared the heat given off by a Christmas light, every square meter on the ice sheet. The area also shows signs of volcanic activity, indicating that the data originates from a local heat source under the Earth’s crust.

The research could provide the information needed for researchers who are seeking data for the rapid decline of the ice sheets. DeConto, a leading Antarctic climate researcher said that the ice sheets pose the single greatest threat to shorelines and coastal cities globally because it is estimated to contain more than 160 feet (50 meters) equivalent of sea level. The odd heat flow will explain the existence of lakes below the ice as well as why parts of Antarctic ice sheets are flowing rapidly in what experts call as “ice streams.” The new study has been published in the journal Science.

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A movie buff, a bookworm, and a compulsive doodler. All posts by Anirudh

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