Antarctica Crater Once Believed To Be Meteorite Impact, Has Portentous Cause

Published On:December 16, 2016, 12:44 pm

According to a latest research, in Antarctica, a ‘crater’ which was once believed to be the result of a meteorite impact is in reality the outcome of ice melts.

The hole-like structure, which is situated in Roi Baudouin ice shelf in Eastern Antarctica, is actually a collapsed lake – rather a cavity created when a lake of melted water drained, along with a ‘moulin’, an almost vertical drainage passage via the ice, beneath it, researchers found on a field trip to that area in January 2016.

Stef Lhermitte, an earth science researcher at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands and at the University of Leuven in Belgium stated that, “That was a huge surprise,” and “Moulins typically are observed on Greenland. And we definitely never see them on an ice shelf.”

Surprising Meltdown

By merging the fieldwork with satellite data and climate modeling, the research scientists have discovered that Eastern Antarctica is more prone and vulnerable to melting down than was previously substantiated. In the December 2012 edition on the journal Natural Climate Change, the research team reported that warm winds to this region blow away the snow cover which as a result darkens the surface o f the ice.

The darker surfaces absorb more heat from the sun as compared to the lighter surfaces; therefore they are more vulnerable to melting. Also, the floating ice sheets do not much contribute to the sea level rise, since they are already a part of the ocean; however, they render a vital backstop as opposed to the slowing of land-based ice from continental Antarctica into the ocean.

When it narrows down to climate change, Eastern Antarctica has always been a mysterious place. Also, the region has been garnering more amount of ice owing to the rise in snow accumulation, as per 2015 research. Since warm air holds more moisture than cold, Global warming could increase the amount of snowfall by promoting the amount of moisture in the air.

The carter-like formation in Roi Baudouin is even more mysterious even though it has been showing up on the satellite images dating back to at least 1989, according to researchers. However, the crater for first noticed in January 2015. At first, the scientists reported that it is a meteorite crater, probably the outcome of a space rock which exploded over Antarctica in 2004.

A climate research scientist at Utrecht University in the Netherlands and at the University of Leuven, Jan Lenaerts, was the only one of the meteorite skeptics. In a statement he mentioned, “My response was: ‘In that area? Then it’s definitely not a meteorite; it’s proof of strong melting,’”

Susceptibility of Ice

AT the time of the fieldwork on the southernmost continent, researchers also found many other meltwater lakes which were beneath the surface of the Roi Baudouin ice sheet. Lhermitte said, “The amount of meltwater differs immensely from year to year, but it clearly increases during warm years.”

Previous research had shown that West Antarctica is quite crucial and sensitive to climate change, Lenaerts stated in the statement. He further mentioned, “Our research now suggests that the much larger East Antarctica ice sheet is also very vulnerable.”

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