Scientists told about the mysterious phenomenon in Antarctica

Eloise Marshall
October 20, 2018

Winds blowing across snow dunes on Antarctica's Ross Ice Shelf cause the massive slab of ice to "sing".

Standing atop the Ross Ice Sheet, you won't hear the throbbing of snow below.

In 2014, scientists deployed seismic equipment on the Ross Ice Shelf, which is the biggest section of floating ice in Antarctica, so they could study the crust and mantle underneath it. Chaput hoped to find some seasonal changes in its mass.

With scientists from across the globe saying rising sea levels will already have a huge impact on human civilization, these eerie-sounding glaciers could help glaciologists predict what ice shelves will do in the future, Aster said. They found the ice vibrated at different frequencies when strong storms rearranged the snow dunes or when the air temperatures at the surface went up or down, which changed how fast seismic waves traveled through the snow.

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The hills are alive with the sound of music-or at least one massive Antarctic ice shelf is alive with a peculiar tune.

"Either you change the velocity of the snow by heating or cooling it, or you change where you blow on the flute, by adding or destroying dunes", he said.

"This last point is particularly interesting", says Chaput, "because it could allow us to quantify which ice shelves have firn layers that are strongly impacted by repeated warming events, and also yield a metric of how resilient these firn layers might be". "And that's essentially the two forcing effects we can observe".

Julien Chaput, an ambient noise monitoring expert at Colorado State University and new faculty member at the University of Texas, El Paso, told Earther that the recordings are a "happy accident". "Chasing down that lead gave us a unique insight into all the environmental effects an ice shelf can 'feel, ' and on remarkably short time scales". In 2002, so suddenly collapsed ice shelf Larsen. Shifts in the ice's vibrational frequencies could reveal the early formation of cracks or melt ponds - signs of structural instability. They posted the eerie sounds online, along with a Geophysical Research Letters report on their greater research.

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