WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- Winds blowing constantly on the Ross Ice Shelf’s surface cause vibrations that produce “somber” seismic tones.
- The ice’s “singing” isn’t audible to human ears, but researchers picked up the vibrations with seismic sensors on the shelf.
- Shifts in the ice shelf’s song could provide scientists with a way to keep an eye on the Ross Ice Shelf’s behaviors.
Who knew ice could sing? A new study published online on October 16 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, researchers found that the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica produces “music” due to surface vibrations caused by winds blowing over its snowy dunes.
These seismic tones are almost constantly playing what scientists are saying resemble a mournful song.
Though the ice shelf’s song plays at a frequency that can’t be picked up by human ears, a frequency of 5 hertz, researchers used seismic sensors to take a listen. It was an unexpected discovery when researchers were monitoring other aspects of the ice shelf’s behavior. In the years 2014 to 2017, researchers had installed 34 seismic sensors on the Ross Ice Shelf.
Recordings were gathered on the ice shelf for more than two years. Data showed that the topmost layer of the snow was vibrating due to and producing a seismic hum.
Julien Chaput, the lead study author, geophysicist and mathematician at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, said, “It’s kind of like you’re blowing a flute, constantly, on the ice shelf.”
Changes in the ice’s surface due to conditions like melting and shifting of the snow due to powerful storms lead to changes in the features of the ice’s song. An example of this is a warming event that occurred in January 2016, which caused the surface to melt.
The study authors concluded that Monitoring shifts and changes in the ice shelf’s song can give scientists a source of valuable data. This includes a way of remotely tracking shifts in the surface of the ice, giving an idea of the stability of the shelf, and could even provide an early warning if the shelf could collapse.
Source: Live Science