Winds whipping across the massive snow dunes left the shelf's icy covering rumbling like the pounding of a colossal drum.
The only catch is that you might not be able to hear all the notes in this spectacular natural symphony if you're listening with human ears, because many occur on timescales or at frequencies that are not compatible with our auditory abilities. On top of being really cool to listen to, these recordings help scientists better understand the climatological and geologic processes that shape the Antarctic.
With this newfound ability, researchers could use seismic stations to continuously monitor the conditions on ice shelves nearly in real time, allowing us to see how the ice shelf's snow jacket is responding to changing climate conditions. But as if that wasn't enough, scientists found that when the wind blows across its surface, the ice shelf hums eerie soundscapes that would fit right in a B-movie horror flick.
The snow provides a barrier between the air and the ice, which insulates it from warming temperatures, comparing it to a fur coat. Or, of course, you could book a flight directly to the Ross Ice Shelf in Western Antarctica. That's because vibrations in the ice shelf's insulating blanket could give scientists a sense of how the whole ice shelf is responding to climate conditions.
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The goal was to use the sensors to look at the structure of the ice shelf throughout different seasons, researcher Julien Chaput told Gizmodo, but the sounds came as a "happy accident" that were captured during the research.
The new study is important because it suggests seismic stations can be used to monitor the conditions of ice shelves in real-time. "And that's essentially the two forcing effects we can observe".
Changes to the ice shelf's "seismic hum" could also indicate whether cracks in the ice are forming that might indicate whether the ice shelf is susceptible to breaking up. They posted the eerie sounds online, along with a Geophysical Research Letters report on their greater research.
In Antarctica, movements on the surface can often be translated into vibrations that propagate throughout the ice shelf.
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