Ice floats near the coast of West Antarctica seen from a window of a NASA Operation IceBridge airplane on October 27, 2016. Meltwater flows risk hastening the collapse Antarctica's ice shelves—but in some cases, meltwater drainage could help keep ice shelves stable.
Antarctica Is Covered With More Meltwater Than Thought
While the implications for sea level rise are unclear, a new survey should help scientists better understand climate effects on the continent.
A surprisingly vast network of waterways cuts across Antarctica’s ice shelves, the floating tongues of ice emanating from the continent’s coastlines.
These seasonal flows of meltwater, a part of Antarctica’s natural water cycle, have been known for decades to crisscross the continent. Now, scientists have systematically catalogued them—revealing them to be more extensive than many scientists had thought.
In some cases, these systems achieve a scale that’s hard to fathom. East Antarctica’s Amery Ice Shelf, for one, bears streams that transport meltwater up to 75 miles, feeding ponds on the ice shelf’s surface that can get more than 50 miles long. The surface of its largest pond can grow by more than 400 NFL football fields in a single day, thanks to