Great Flood A'Coming? 'Ominous' Sounds of Melting Antarctic Ice Registered

Ice structure sticking out from vast windy Antartica ice shelf

Antarctic ice sounds really creepy when it vibrates

It's actually a recording of sounds coming from Antarctica's largest ice shelf.

"It's kind of like you're blowing a flute, constantly, on the ice shelf", Julien Chaput, a geophysicist at Colorado State University and lead author of the study, said in a statement.

Researchers believe that monitoring the snow's melt-rate acoustically could be a way to warn scientists when the shelf may become unstable. As noted by Earther, the frozen region's ambient sounds include the Rice Crispies-like crackle of melting ice releasing long-trapped air bubbles to the steady groans, screeches, and pops of massive floating ice sheets shifting and breaking apart as they buckle under the weight of fresh snow in the winter or melt during the summer. Researchers put 34 sensors inside the Ross Ice Shelf in Western Antarctica in late 2014 and inadvertently captured what it sounds like within the Texas-sized mass of ice. Instead he found haunting sounds and spectral anomalies that couldn't be easily explained. This produces a near-constant set of seismic "tones" that are easy to monitor. "Deploying a single seismometer on an ice shelf could provide the means of observing very subtle environmental forcing, on time scales as short as minutes, and would provide a means to directly understand the sequence of physical changes that happen in the near surface as a melting event strikes".

Researchers detailed their initial acoustic monitoring effort this week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. Since the ultra-sensitive seismic equipment was buried below the surface, Chaput was able to document much more than just "seasonal shifts". As storms blow through, the frequency of sound generated by these seismic waves changes, creating a unusual whistling sound-one that's equal parts calming and unsettling. When the ice melted, the study said, the pitch of the "singing" also fell. The pitch drop didn't reverse itself when the temperatures dropped back down again, which indicates permanent changes in the firn.

This means it is more important than ever that we keep a vigilant eye on any major changes in ice shelves.

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