Scientists Melt a Mile-Deep Hole in Antarctica to Study Climate Change
A group of scientists and engineers led by the British Antarctic Survey dug a 1.3-mile deep hole through the ice sheet in West Antarctica—the deepest hole ever made in the region using hot water, according to BBC News.
The project, called Bed Access, Monitoring and Ice Sheet History (BEAMISH), comes after 20 years of planning. Another hole was attempted in 2004 but failed.
But on Jan. 8, after 63 hours of non-stop drilling in temperatures as low as low as -22°F, the team broke through to the sediment 7,060-feet below the surface. A series of instruments were then threaded through the borehole to record water pressure, ice temperature and deformation of the surrounding ice.
"I have waited for this moment for a long time and am delighted that we've finally achieved our goal," lead scientist Andy Smith said in the press release. "There are gaps in our knowledge of what's happening in West Antarctica and by studying the area where the ice sits on soft sediment we can understand better how this region may change in the future and contribute to global sea-level rise."
Both Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have been melting at alarming rates in recent years due to Earth's rising temperatures. West Antarctica, which has enough ice to raise oceans 17.32 feet, is considered one of the most unstable parts of the continent. The region is now losing 159 billion tons of ice each year.
"We know that warmer ocean waters are eroding many of West Antarctica's glaciers," Keith Makinson, a physical oceanographer at the British Antarctic Survey, explained in the press release. "What we're trying to understand is how slippery the sediment underneath these glaciers is, and therefore how quickly they might flow off the continent into the sea. This will help us determine future sea level rise from West Antarctica with more certainty."
The team has since drilled a second hole on Jan. 22 a few kilometers away from the first site. The research is expected to continue until mid-February 2018.
The move comes after regional authorities declared a state of emergency over the weekend after sightings of more than 50 bears in the town of Belushya Guba since December.
This year's letter from Bill and Melinda Gates focused on nine things that surprised them. For the Microsoft-cofounder, one thing he was surprised to learn was the massive amount of new buildings the planet should expect in the coming decades due to urban population growth.
"The number of buildings in the world is going to double by 2060. It's like we're going to build a new New York City every month for the next 40 years," he said.
By Shana Udvardy
After a dearth of action on climate change and a record year of extreme events in 2017, the inclusion of climate change policies within the annual legislation Congress considers to outline its defense spending priorities (the National Defense Authorization Act) for fiscal year 2018 was welcome progress. House and Senate leaders pushed to include language that mandated that the Department of Defense (DoD) incorporate climate change in their facility planning (see more on what this section of the bill does here and here) as well as issue a report on the impacts of climate change on military installations. Unfortunately, what DoD produced fell far short of what was mandated.
Trump is losing his rallying cry to save coal. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) voted on Thursday to retire two coal-fired power plants in the next few years despite a plea from the president to keep one of the plants open.
Earlier this week, the president posted an oddly specific tweet that urged the government-owned utility to save the 49-year-old Paradise 3 plant in Kentucky. It so happens that the facility burns coal supplied by Murray Energy Corporation, whose CEO is Robert Murray, is a major Trump donor.