You don’t see massive and icy lakes suddenly disappearing every day, that’s for sure. But in East Antarctica, this scenario that looks as it was drawn straight from the horror movies becomes a reality. Researchers are amazed by a lake that disappeared from the Amery Ice Shelf during the Antarctic winter in 2019.
The incredible news of the disappearing lake is brought by Phys.org, and the more precise estimation is that about 600-750 million cubic meters of water went down into the ocean. A global team of scientists are responsible for the discovery.
The weight of the water is the culprit
Satellite imagery of a massive, icy lake in Antarctica suddenly disappearing into the ocean. (Per NASA) pic.twitter.com/6G9ncKFb0p
— Tony Ho Tran (@TonyHoWasHere) June 27, 2021
Roland Warner, who is a glaciologist with the Australian Antarctic Program Partnership from the University of Tasmania and also the lead author of the study, explained what could have happened, as cited by Phys.org:
We believe the weight of water accumulated in this deep lake opened a fissure in the ice shelf beneath the lake, a process known as hydrofracture, causing the water to drain away to the ocean below.
Helen Amanda Fricker, who is co-author of the study and a glaciologist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, declared while also cited by Phys.org:
Since surface meltwater on ice shelves can cause their collapse which ultimately leads to sea-level rise when grounded ice is no longer held back, it’s important to understand the processes that weaken ice shelves.
The scientists involved reveal that it’s too early to say for sure if the damage of the meltwater lake has anything to do with broader trends such as the climate warming around Antarctica.
There are hundreds of lakes in Antarctica, and some of the relatively small regions are clear of ice and snow, having some surface lakes.
The event was described in a study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.