Antarctica discovery: Scientists peer 200km beneath Antarctic to decipher Earth mystery


Satellite data from the ESA has given researchers a glimpse into the underground of Antarctica. Using Earth-modelling techniques from the satellites, researchers have been able to peer deep into the Earth’s crust, according to new research published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth. By analysing the data, researchers will able to determine how sea levels are expected to rise as a result of climate change, which is melting the Antarctic.

ESA’s Roger Haagmans noted: “These are important findings also in the context of understanding sea-level change as a consequence of ice loss from Antarctica.

“When ice mass is lost, the solid Earth rebounds and this effect needs to be accounted for in ice volume changes.

“This can be better determined once the structure and composition of the Earth interior are better understood.”

Folker Pappa, doctoral researcher at Kiel University and lead author of the study, said: “This allows a much greater level of detail when analysing deep earth structures.

“Under West Antarctica, which is geologically young, the earth’s crust is comparatively thin with about 25 kilometres, and the earth’s mantle is viscous at a depth of less than 100 kilometres.

“East Antarctica, on the other hand, is an old cratonic shield and more than one billion years old. Here, the mantle rocks still have solid properties at a depth of more than 200 kilometres.”

The 3D model also allows scientists to look at how the Earth will change as the ice sheets melt.

When the ice caps melt, the Earth and crust essentially thaws out, allowing for a lot more movement beneath the surface.

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Dr Pappa added: “These are natural interactions between the ice and the solid earth. Until now, it was not possible to examine these processes more closely in the Antarctic in detail due to a lack of earth models.”

Dr Fausto Ferraccioli, head geophysicist at the British Antarctic Survey and co-author of the study said: “3D Earth offers us tantalising new geophysical findings about the deep structure and development of Antarctica.

“These new models showing the thickness of the crust and the lithosphere are crucial to understanding the fundamental composition and tectonic architecture of the Antarctic, for example.”



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