Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Scientists Melt a Mile-Deep Hole in Antarctica to Study Climate Change

Climate
A team of scientists and engineers drilled a hole to the base of the Rutford Ice Stream in West Antarctica. British Antarctic Survey

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.

By reaching the base of the Rutford Ice Stream, the researchers hope to understand how the area responds to a warming climate, according to a press release.


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.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular. Colin Dunn / Flickr / CC by 2.0

By Julia Vergin

It is undisputed that vitamin D plays a role everywhere in the body and performs important functions. A severe vitamin D deficiency, which can occur at a level of 12 nanograms per milliliter of blood or less, leads to severe and painful bone deformations known as rickets in infants and young children and osteomalacia in adults. Unfortunately, this is where the scientific consensus ends.

Read More Show Less
Data from a scientist measuring macroalgal communities in rocky shores in the Argentinean Patagonia would be added to the new system. Patricia Miloslavich / University of Delaware

Ocean scientists have been busy creating a global network to understand and measure life in the oceans. The system will aggregate data from the oceans, climate and human activity to better inform sustainable marine management practices.

EcoWatch sat down with some of the scientists spearheading the collaboration to learn more.

Read More Show Less
Authors of a new study warned Thursday that increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is nearing a level not seen in 15 million years. Dawn Ellner / Flickr / CC by 2.0

By Jessica Corbett

As a United Nations agency released new climate projections showing that the world is on track in the next five years to hit or surpass a key limit of the Paris agreement, authors of a new study warned Thursday that increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is nearing a level not seen in 15 million years.

Read More Show Less
Dr. Jane Goodall, the world-renowned conservationist, desperately wants the world to pay attention to what she sees as the greatest threat to humanity's existence. Craig Barritt / Getty Images for TIME

By Jeff Berardelli

While COVID-19 and protests for racial justice command the world's collective attention, ecological destruction, species extinction and climate change continue unabated. While the world's been focused on other crises, an alarming study was released warning that species extinction is now progressing so fast that the consequences of "biological annihilation" may soon be "unimaginable."

Read More Show Less
A Starbucks employee in a mask and face shield at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, on May 12, 2020. ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP via Getty Images

Anyone entering a U.S. Starbucks from July 15 will have to wear a face mask, the company announced Thursday.

Read More Show Less
Supporters cheer before Trump arrives for a rally at the BOK Center on June 20, 2020 in Tulsa, OK. Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post via Getty Images

On Monday and Tuesday of the week that President Donald Trump held his first rally since March in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the county reported 76 and 96 new coronavirus cases respectively, according to POLITICO. This week, the county broke its new case record Monday with 261 cases and reported a further 206 cases on Tuesday. Now, Tulsa's top public health official thinks the rally and counterprotest "likely contributed" to the surge.

Read More Show Less

Trending

In the tropics, farmers often slash and burn forests to clear fertile land for crops, but a new method avoids that technique. Inga Foundation video

Rainforests are an important defense against climate change because they absorb carbon. But many are being destroyed on a massive scale.

Read More Show Less