Researchers at the British Antarctic survey have come out with the best ever produced map yet of the warmth coming from the rocks underneath the Antarctic ice sheet.
The said “geothermal heat flux “is the key data needed by scientists to establish how the White Continent is going to react to climate change.
When the rock bed’s temperature is raised, it is easier for the ice above to move. Then when the global warming is already forcing change on the ice sheet, a higher flux could then accelerate matters.
The journal Geophysical Research Letters published the map.
Yasmina Martos, affiliated now with the U.S. space agency explained: “The heat coming from the Earth’s interior is important to understand the overall conditions that control the dynamics at the base of the ice sheet and hence the ice flow.”
Martos also added in an interview with the BBC News that: “If this heat flux is elevated, the ice base can melt and produce water that acts as a sliding film.”
One of the results of their study also reveals that the heat flux is higher underneath West Antartica, where more ice is currently melting than underneath East Antartica.
Martos also said that even a little melting at the base helps the ice sheet to slide faster. The researchers have also identified areas of low heat flux, which will help in stabilizing the ice sheet.
The team did not have to drill through the kilometers of ice in Antartica in order to take the temperature of the bed. They only had to infer the likely warmth of rocks from their magnetism.
There’s smart calculation involved as scientists know the temperature (580C) at which hot minerals lose their magnetism, so that if they can measure how close to the rock-ice interface this occurring, then they can also establish the estimate for the heat flux.
The new map represents the best effort yet as it is considered a 30-50% improvement compared to past attempts.
It affirms in greater detail the established idea that East and West Antartica are very different provinces.
A particular research project can potentially greatly benefit from the map’s data, and that is the quest to drill the oldest ice on the continent.
Europe, China, and the U.S., as well as others, are looking for a location where they can collect a core of frozen material that contains a record of past climate dating back at least 1.5 million years.
Martos concluded that it is very exciting to see the implications the new heat map has for many communities, including new generations of ice sheet and sea level models.
People are also starting to talk about the map’s findings on Reddit, having a lively discussion whether the findings have anything to do with climate change or not.
One said: “No, f*&^ers, this has nothing to do with climate change. It does not “disprove” climate change. It has never been blamed on Trump. So don’t even go there. It has been going on for millennia, so nobody has said this is doomsday either. It has nothing to do with climate change whatsoever.”
The commenter added: “Except: It means that a part of the Antarctic ice shelf is confirmed to be a bit more unstable and thus more easily affected by climate change because it is not lying on very cold rocks, but on slightly lukewarm ones. So when heated from above it becomes a bit more unstable more easily. But we already suspected this, even though we were unsure about how much and why. Now we know and can be even more precise.”