Scientists discovered that Antarctica is overflowed by many meltwater streams. While previously thought that such streams invade only the northern Antarctic region, they were also found everywhere around the continent and in the ice layers.
Meltwater accumulated in streams and ponds
Researchers thinks that this abundance of meltwater streams occurred during the short but hot summer. As the average temperatures went up, the number of such formations increased. The occurrence of these flows varies with the increases and decreases in temperature. Also, they spread all over the ice surface of Antarctica.
Explorers observed the first meltwater streams at the beginning of the 20th century. However, they did not know how wide was the expansion of these formations. Scientists started mapping them in 1947, by collecting information and images using military aircrafts. In 1973, they perfected their database by using satellite images.
Depending on the season and its typical weather conditions, scientists were able to discover 700 different systems of meltwater. Among them, there were ponds, channels, and entire streams which spread all over the edges of the continent. They are expansive formations which measure many miles in length or width.
Although it sounds implausible, these streams are there and are going to expand. After being a rarity at the beginning, these formations started gaining a lot of strength, thus threatening the ice layer in Antarctica. However, the researchers need to study them more thoroughly before establishing to what extent they spread on the continent.
The increasing temperatures will cause more ice to be lost
The main cause of this phenomenon is global warming. Higher temperatures allowed the meltwater to form ponds or streams on the ice surface. Most of these leakages started near mountains. This happened because the mountains are made up of darker ice, which attracts more heat and sunlight.
If temperatures continue to grow, this phenomenon will become more widespread. At the moment, these leakages are more prominent around the edges. However, this might change, and the amount of meltwater on the inner surface of the continent might increase. No matter what is the case, the ice layer is constantly decreasing.
Over the past 50 years, the temperatures in Antarctica have increased by 7 degrees Celsius. The Larsen Ice Shelf has lost a big part of its surface since 1995. In the southern regions, the temperatures did not increase much, but a massive amount of ice was still lost.