Scientists drill to record depths in West Antarctica

Date:

Share post:

A team of scientists and engineers has for the first time successfully drilled over two kilometres through the ice sheet in West Antarctica using hot water. This research will help understand how the region will respond to a warming climate.

Scientists drill to record depths in West Antarctica
The BEAMISH team has drilled over two kilometers to the base of the Rutford Ice Stream in West Antarctica
[Credit: Image courtesy of British Antarctic Survey]

The 11-person team has been working on the Rutford Ice Stream for the last 12 weeks in freezing temperatures at low as minus 30 degrees Celsius. On Tuesday 8 January, following a 63 hour continuous round-the-clock drilling operation, the team broke through to the sediment 2152 metres below the surface.

A string of instruments were fed through the borehole which will record water pressure, ice temperature and deformation within the ice around it.




The project, which is named BEAMISH, has been 20 years in the planning, and was attempted in 2004 without success.

Lead scientist Dr Andy Smith from British Antarctic Survey (BAS), who is still working on the Rutford Ice Stream, says:

“I have waited for this moment for a long time and am delighted that we’ve finally achieved our goal. There are gaps in our knowledge of what’s happening in West Antarctica and by studying the area where the ice sits on soft sediment we can understand better how this region may change in the future and contribute to global sea-level rise.”




The team has now drilled two holes (with the second completed on 22 January) and plan to be working on the ice until mid-February 2018. Further work will now continue at a second site a few kilometres away.

Dr Keith Makinson, a physical oceanographer at BAS, says: “We know that warmer ocean waters are eroding many of West Antarctica’s glaciers. What we’re trying to understand is how slippery the sediment underneath these glaciers is, and therefore how quickly they might flow off the continent into the sea. This will help us determine future sea level rise from West Antarctica with more certainty.”

Source: British Antarctic Survey [January 24, 2019]

ADVERTISEMENT

spot_img

Related articles

New species of giant Amazonian fish reported

A new species of the giant fish arapaima has been discovered from the central Amazon in Brazil, raising...

Action plan released to conserve one of Africa’s richest sites for biodiversity

A team of scientists led by WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) has developed a conservation blueprint to protect one...

Meltwater lakes under the Antarctic Ice Sheet accelerated glacial retreat in the Earth’s past

During the last glacial period - when the ice in the Antarctic was far thicker and extended further...

Butterflies are ‘sentinels’ of climate change in mountain ecosystems, say researchers

Mountains and butterflies are conceptualized as the ultimate juxtaposition—enduring and resolute versus fleeting and delicate—but the surprising robustness...

The complex fate of Antarctic species in the face of a changing climate

Oxygen concentrations in both the open ocean and coastal waters have declined by 2-5% since at least the...

Strange creatures accidentally discovered beneath Antarctica’s ice shelves

Far underneath the ice shelves of the Antarctic, there's more life than expected, finds a recent study in...

Two degrees decimated Puerto Rico’s insect populations

While temperatures in the tropical forests of northeastern Puerto Rico have climbed two degrees Celsius since the mid-1970s,...

Live fast and die young, or play the long game? Scientists map 121 animal life cycles

Scientists have pinpointed the "pace" and "shape" of life as the two key elements in animal life cycles...