Researchers capture audio of Antarctic ice 'singing'

Antarctic ice sounds really creepy when it vibrates

Scientists Just Detected Some Very Odd Noises Coming From An Antarctic Ice Sheet

Extremely sensitive sensors were buried two metres under the surface to capture "seismic motions".

"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.

The vibrations themselves are believed to have been created by strong winds blowing across the dunes atop the Ross ice shelf, which vibrates the ice.

Study co-author Rick Aster during a station installation trip on the Ross Ice Shelf, holding a broadband seismometer.

But they noticed something odd - the snow blanketing the shelf was nearly constantly vibrating.

When they looked at the data, they realized the top layer of the shelf (called the firn) was nearly constantly vibrating, thanks to the winds travelling atop the snow dunes.

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The researchers noticed that the height of seismic hum changes when under the influence of weather conditions of snow dunes "rebuilt" or when the temperature abruptly rises or falls.

The "hum" is actually far too low to be detected by the human ear, but when sped up by 1200 times the distinctive - and creepy - noise can clearly be heard. That's because vibrations in the ice shelf's insulating blanket could give scientists a sense of how the whole ice shelf is responding to climate conditions.

The noise has also allowed researchers to discover how several processes like global warming and winds are affecting the ice. For instance, changes in the hum could indicate the presence of melt ponds or cracks in the ice.

The findings are reported in Geophysical Research Letters.

"Basically, what we have on our hands is a tool to monitor the environment... and its impact on the ice shelf", he added. Antartica is experiencing an accelerating loss of mass from its ice shelves, which act as plugs holding back the world's largest stores of ice from flowing uninhibited into the ocean.

Being able to monitor the air temperature is particularly important, Chaput explained, because it could tell us which ice shelves are vulnerable to warming events.

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