Study: ‘Surprisingly High’ Amount of Heat Under West Antarctic Ice Sheet

posted: 07/13/15
by: Discovery.com Staff
Icy Blue
Julie Harris/iStock

There are surprisingly high amounts of heat flowing beneath the West Antarctic ice sheet, according to a new study from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Researchers used a hot-water drill to penetrate the ice sheet, eventually embedding a heat probe in the sediment beneath a glacial lake. As the probe bore deeper into the sediment, it revealed a temperature increase "about five times higher than that typically found on continents".

"This is a region where there is volcanic activity, so this measurement may be due to a local heat source in the crust," explains study lead author Andrew Fisher.

Fisher believes that the heat could explain the presence of lakes below the ice sheet, which act as a lubricant, sweeping ice to the edge of the sheet (and eventually out to sea).

The West Antarctic sheet is widely considered to be less stable than the East Antarctic sheet. Much of the West sheet lies below sea level, where it is particularly vulnerable to warm ocean water.

Click here to read the full study in the July 10 edition of the journal Science Advances.

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