Ocean explorers delve beneath the ice

Ocean explorers delve beneath the ice 15.11.2019

Ocean explorers delve beneath the ice

Every two hours the messages come from Antarctica, from a narrow, hugely expensive metal tube suspended in the Southern Ocean beneath the Ross Ice Shelf. The tube contains sensors that periodically record the temperature, salinity and currents at various depths of the surrounding water. The instrument then relays the measurements by satellite phone to Stevens, an oceanographer at the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research in Wellington, New Zealand.

The data provide glimpses into one of the most remote and little-known environments on Earth. “We had photographs back from the surface of Venus before we’d seen what was beneath an ice shelf,” says Stevens. Almost no one has ever ventured under one of these vast, floating ledges of ice.

But what goes on underneath Antarctica’s ice shelves is hugely important. The interface between ice and ocean influences how climate change affects global sea level, ocean currents, weather patterns and marine ecosystems.

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