Airborne radar and satellite images have helped scientists discover enormous ice channels underneath a floating ice shelf in Antarctica, reports EurekAlert! The channels are as high as 820 feet and hundreds of miles long.
Research indicates that the flow of meltwater beneath the grounded ice sheet is similar to rivers rather than in a thin layer as previously thought. Scientists were able to predict the path of meltwater under part of the ice in contact with the land. Still to be determined is how the flowing water will affect the ice sheet.
Huge channels have been observed in other locations but its formation was thought to be from oceanic processes rather than water released by the melting of snow or ice. The meltwater flows at the base of an inaccessible ice sheet more than a half-mile high.
The discovery of the channels will help researchers understand how changing environmental conditions may affect the ice. Many consider meltwater to be an indication of abrupt climate change.