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Discovered a lake with 34 million years of history in Antarctica

May 14, 2022 09:44 GMT+7

Scientists discovered a large lake the size of a city lying beneath the largest iceberg in Antarctica.

Scientists have discovered a very large lake, the size of a city hidden deep beneath the Antarctic ice sheet. It unlocks the secrets of the 34 million-year history of this ice sheet.

Discovered a lake with 34 million years of history in Antarctica
City-sized lake beneath Antarctic ice

The mysterious lake named Snow Eagle Lake is located in a canyon kilometers deep under thick ice in the highlands of Princess Elizabeth Land. The lake has a surface area of ​​370 square kilometers, making it one of the largest subglacial lakes in the world.

Polar experts discovered the strange lake after three years of aerial surveys, using radar and special sensors that measure small changes in the Earth’s gravity and magnetic field. Because the lake is buried several hundred kilometers from the edge of the ice sheet, scientists believe it contains 34 million-year-old river sediments.

“The lake documents the entire history of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, which began more than 34 million years ago, as well as its development and growth through glacial cycles since then,” said study author Don Blankenship. from that”.

This discovery is important, helping scientists uncover a treasure trove of information about Antarctica before it freezes.

Scientists have found the first clue to the existence of the lake after detecting a dent in satellite images of the iceberg. “I was really startled when I first saw that bright radar reflection,” said Shuai Yan, a PhD student at the Institute of Geophysics in Austin, who planned the flight for the lake investigation. .

Scientists meticulously detailed the underlying geometry of the iceberg, revealing a buried lake 48 kilometers long, 14.5 kilometers wide and 198 meters deep. The reservoir contains about 21 cubic kilometers of water and is mostly an ancient sedimentary core.

“This lake has been accumulating sediments for a very long time, potentially taking us through a period of Antarctica that was completely ice-free, until it fell into a deep freeze. We’ve never had that before. There is no record of all these events,” said Martin Siegert, study co-author and scientist at Imperial College London, UK.

The researchers’ next step is to find a way to get to the sediment. However, because the sediment is ‘locked’ in kilometer-thick ice in the coldest regions on Earth, that would be very difficult.

The team proposed installing a polar station on the ice to give scientists space to work and then drill into the thick layer to extract sediment. What’s trapped inside helps scientists understand more about how climate change happened to create the ice sheets they are now.

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