Thousands of Ice Quakes Are Shaking An Antarctic Ice Shelf Every Night

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As the global warming accelerates, the Antarctic ice sheet is trying to adapt. However, scientists find more and more puzzling things regarding Antarctica. In the most recent discovery, the researchers found out that thousands of ice quakes are shaking an Antarctic ice sheld every night.

Until recently, many scientific studies conducted in Antarctica concluded that the continent does not present earthquakes. However, a more recent study showed that thousands of small ice quakes shake an Antarctic ice shelf. What’s puzzling about this discovery is that the tremors only occur at night.

But before you jump to any science-fiction conclusions, you should know that the scientists have a reliable explanation for why is that happening at the South Pole.

Researchers planted seismometers across the McMurdo Ice Shelf, and they were surprised to see that, indeed, thousands of ice quakes are shaking the ice shelf each night, between 6 and 12 hours after the darkness falls.

Thousands of Ice Quakes Are Shaking An Antarctic Ice Shelf Every Night

“In these areas, we would record tens, hundreds, up to thousands of these per night,” says glaciologist Douglas MacAyeal from the University of Chicago. “In these ponds, there’s often a layer of ice on top of melted water below, like you see with a lake that’s only frozen on top,” the researcher added.

But how do those ice quakes form and how do they affect the Antarctic ice shelf? Well, it seems that the phenomenon is not related to the earthquakes produced by tectonic plates. As their name says, ice quakes are created by the ice and the water beneath it.

When the temperature drops after the darkness falls, the ice sheet shrinks and the ocean beneath it goes freezing.

“As the temperature cools at night, the ice on the top contracts and the water below expands as it undergoes freezing. That warps the top lid until it finally breaks with a snap,” Douglas MacAyeal explained.