Melting Glaciers Reveal Uncharted Island Off Coast Of Antarctica
Melting ice in Antarctica has uncovered an uncharted island just off the coast, which researchers have christened ‘Sif Island’.
The new island, which has long been buried by ice but is now visible above sea level for the first time, was first noticed by scientists from the Thwaites Glacier Offshore Research Project.
Researchers discovered the island last week, February 26, while sailing off the coast of the Pine Island Glacier ice shelf, with the land mass measuring only about 350 metres long.
Sif Island is still mostly covered in ice, but has a distinct layer of brown rock on its surface that stands out from its surrounding glaciers and icebergs.
After visiting the island briefly, the researchers were able to confirm the island is made of volcanic granite, and is even home to a few resident seals.
Sarah Slack, a member of the expedition, said in a blog post:
At first, we thought maybe an iceberg had become lodged on the outcropping years ago and then melted enough to expose the underlying rock, but now we think that the ice on the island was once part of the Pine Island Glacier ice shelf, a massive field of floating ice that extends outward into the ocean from the edge of the glacier.
According to expedition member Jim Marschalek, a PhD student in Earth Science at Imperial College London, no other rocky outcropping like this is visible for 65 kilometres in any direction.
Antarctica’s geology is so ice-covered, we really don’t know much about it. There aren’t any other outcropping rocks for almost 70 km in any direction, so this was a special opportunity.
Now that Sif Island has appeared, scientists are hoping to conduct further studies on it to understand more about how the land beneath the ice of Antarctica may respond to climate change.
As exciting as the discovery is, the island’s sudden appearance is almost certainly a direct effect of the widespread glacial melt that has become typical in Antarctica over the past decade, Slack explained.
The Earth’s warming climate means the Thwaites Glacier is retreating faster than new ice can form, resulting in such phenomenons as this. The Thwaites Glacier, sometimes referred to as the Doomsday Glacier, is an unusually fast-moving and board Antarctic glacier, which flows into Pine Island Bay.
The team’s expedition is due to end on March 25, at which point a full analysis of Sif Island rock samples will be able to commence.
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