During summer season the ice of Antarctica melts and lakes and rivers appear on its surface. To some extent it is normal, however a new study, published recently in journal Nature, revealed that the melting is far more intense than imagined before. Satellite images show that more than 700 lakes and rivers popped up on the surface in the last decade that makes scientists deeply worried.
Melting primarily occurs in areas where the snow is so much pressed together that it has rather blue color instead of white. Blue ice absorbs the heat better, so it melts and the relatively warm water carves channels into the ice-cover. In some cases the meltwater accumulates in lower spots and creates a lake, but in other cases it finds its way as a river to the place where it should not go: the ice Shelf.
Ice shelf is basically the edge of the continent, the ice that stretches into the ocean from the land. It can be considered as a primary supporter of the ice structure. When meltwater gets into the small cracks and gets frozen, the volume expands and damages the structure of the shelf. The injured shelf breaks then off the continent and the glaciers behind can move further towards the ocean. This process weakens the entire structure of the ice cover.
Amazingly the Nature tries to save itself. Scientists found a natural network of channels that ends in a waterfall at Nansen Ice Shelf. The system protects the shelf by driving the meltwater straight into the ocean. Though this is a nice example of the adaptation capabilities of Nature, but without further efforts of humans to reduce the impacts of global warming might not be enough!
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