Published: Sat, October 20, 2018
Science | By Michele Flores

Listen To The Alien Sounds of an Antarctic Ice Shelf

Listen To The Alien Sounds of an Antarctic Ice Shelf

"We discovered that the shelf almost continuously sings at frequencies of five or more cycles per second, excited by local and regional winds blowing across its snow dune‐like topography", in a press release. If the video above is anything to go by, all you need is some very hard ice, some wind and a contact mic, and you might be able to create some insane natural feedback. On top of being really cool to listen to, these recordings help scientists better understand the climatological and geologic processes that shape the Antarctic. 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.

Mr Chaput and his team were using seismic sensors to learn more about the structure and movements of the Ross Ice Shelf. The frequency of these waves vary based on changes to the loose snow in the firn, including the impacts of heavy winds or temperature shifts. Unusual discoveries continue to pile up around Antarctica's ice shelves as a result of all the changes, and haunting sounds are one of the newer phenomena.

"Either you change the velocity of the snow by heating or cooling it, or you change where you blow on the flute, by adding or destroying dunes", he said.

According to scientists, a drone that makes a glacier, is too low to be able to capture the human ear, but he can tell a lot about the state of the ice.

Tracking changes in the ice shelf is crucial as, after they collapse, the resulting ice can raise sea levels significantly.

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The new study is important because it suggests seismic stations can be used to monitor the conditions of ice shelves in real-time.

"That's essentially the two forcing effects we can observe".

Changes to the ice shelf's "seismic hum" could also indicate whether cracks in the ice are forming that might indicate whether the ice shelf is susceptible to breaking up.

At about 800km across, the ice shelf is about the size of France and has produced several icebergs, including B15 - the world's largest iceberg.

Researchers detailed their initial acoustic monitoring effort this week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

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