American Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting 2007
Pivotal studies of polar ice caps reveal an intricate subglacial lake system that moves large volumes of water beneath the Antarctic ice sheet. Research conducted by scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego provides new insight into the previously unidentified processes occurring under the Antarctic ice sheet and its potential to harbor unique life forms.
Scripps Oceanography Research Professor Helen Amanda Fricker will discuss details of her research, titled "Subglacial Plumbing Mapped from Space: Water Transfer, Water Volumes and Implications for Ice Dynamics" during an invited talk at the 2007 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting.
Fricker and her research team analyzed satellite data to document the long-distance movement of subglacial waters that occurs under the fast-flowing ice streams to the grounding line, where the waters reach the Southern Ocean. This research reveals new evidence of subglacial lakes draining into each other and their role in initiating fast ice stream flow in the upper glacier catchments, where the water collects in the natural drainage system.
"Understanding Antarctica's complex subglacial plumbing is of critical importance to monitor the entire ice sheet system and its potential for change," said Fricker.
The Antarctic ice sheet is one of only two polar ice caps on Earth. Ice streams are components of the ice sheet that move faster than surrounding ice and may be up to 50 kilometers (31 miles) wide and 2 kilometers (1.25 miles) thick, stretching for hundreds of kilometers. The ice streams are responsible for transporting most of the ice leaving the continent to the floating ice shelves and, ultimately, to the ocean.
Monitoring subglacial outflows from the ice sheet margins is also important for quantifying the freshwater input to the ocean and understanding ice-ocean interactions. Discovery of lakes close to the grounding line, where there are no downstream lakes, provides an opportunity for exploration without the risk of contaminating other lakes.
Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, is one of the oldest, largest, and most important centers for global science research and education in the world. Now in its second century of discovery, the scientific scope of the institution has grown to include biological, physical, chemical, geological, geophysical, and atmospheric studies of the earth as a system. Hundreds of research programs covering a wide range of scientific areas are under way today on every continent and in every ocean. The institution has a staff of more than 1,400 and annual expenditures of approximately $195 million from federal, state, and private sources. Scripps operates oceanographic research vessels recognized worldwide for their outstanding capabilities. Equipped with innovative instruments for ocean exploration, these ships constitute mobile laboratories and observatories that serve students and researchers from institutions throughout the world. Birch Aquarium at Scripps serves as the interpretive center of the institution and showcases Scripps research and a diverse array of marine life through exhibits and programming for more than 430,000 visitors each year. Learn more at scripps.ucsd.edu and follow us at Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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