Friday, 16 November, 2018

Listen to this: Weird, spooky noises heard in Antarctic ice shelf

Science allows us to hear Antarctica’s haunting ice song for the 1st time The wind lashing against the upper layer of the ice shelf creates an inaudible'ice song
Doris Mccormick | 20 October, 2018, 17:08

For this reason, they have buried 34 monitors seismic under the layer of snow from the sea ice of Ross so they can capture that awesome noise.

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

With this newfound ability, researchers could use seismic stations to continuously monitor the conditions on ice shelves nearly in real time, allowing us to see how the ice shelf's snow jacket is responding to changing climate conditions.

But the melting of ice shelves has real-world consequences, too.

Moreover, the haunting sounds of Antarctica's ice shelves could greatly contribute to the sound effects used in horror movies and haunted houses - just in time for Halloween.

Ice shelves are covered in a thin blanket of snow, typically several meters deep, that insulates the ice below from warming and melting like a fur coat.

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The top layers of loose snow and ice are called firn, and they are vulnerable to events that take place above the surface, including the wind and temperature changes.

Mr Chaput said weather conditions can change the frequency of the vibrations, thereby changing the tune.

But if we deployed seismic sensors on more ice shelfs, you could observe subtle environmental changes, in minutes.

The lowest frequency a human can hear is only 20 Hz, and even then this is only possible in extreme anechoic chambers, but we can "feel" sounds lower than that, for example during earthquakes. Studying the vibrations of an ice shelf's insulating snow jacket could give scientists a sense of how it is responding to changing climate conditions, according to Douglas MacAyeal, a glaciologist at the University of Chicago who was not connected to the new study but wrote a commentary about the findings also published today in Geophysical Research Letters.

He believes the disturbances occurring on the surface are being trapped in the form of seismic waves which travel through the ice shelf.

"Basically, what we have on our hands is a tool to monitor the environment... and its impact on the ice shelf", he added. What they heard however, the creeping "singing" of the ice shelf, is not at all what the anticipated they would find.

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