Hidden paths could be behind Antarctic glacier melt: study
Scientists have discovered two pathways that are likely channelling warm ocean water under a massive Antarctic glacier, which could contribute to rising global sea levels, a study revealed Tuesday.
The 120-kilometre (75 miles) long Totten Glacier, more than 30 kilometres wide, is the largest in East Antarctica and melting more quickly than others in the area.
Research published in the journal Nature Geoscience showed that a trough just under five kilometres wide has formed as a gateway deep underneath the glacier, along with another tunnel.
These could allow warmer sea water to penetrate the glacier base, the researchers said.
“The Totten Glacier is the most rapidly thinning glacier in East Antarctica and this melt has the potential to drive substantial regional ice loss,” Australian Antarctic Division glaciologist Jason Roberts said.
“The study identifies direct pathways for warm ocean water to reach under the glacier; a likely reason for the observed thinning.”
During a voyage to the frozen region during the past southern hemisphere summer, researchers found the waters around Totten Glacier were around 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer than other areas.
Up until recently the East Antarctica ice sheet was thought to be surrounded by cold waters and therefore very stable and unlikely to change much.
The Australian Antarctic Division said there was enough ice in the Totten Glacier alone to raise global sea levels by at least 3.5 metres, roughly equivalent to the projected contribution of the entire West Antarctic Ice Sheet, if it were to completely collapse.
“While the Totten melt may take many centuries, once change has begun our analysis reveals it would likely be irreversible,” said lead author of the study Jamin Greenbaum, a PhD student at the University of Texas.
The study, which included researchers from Australia, Britain and the United States, used aerial surveys from Australia’s Casey station to detect the deep trenches.
Aircraft equipped with radar, laser and other sensors for determining ice thickness and mapping the bedrock and seafloor bathymetry flew over the glacier over five summers from 2008 to 2013.
The findings from this study present a strong case for using aerial surveys in other parts of Antarctica, including the virtually unknown Antarctic inner continental shelf,” said Australian Antarctic Division programme leader Tas van Ommen.
Will we end up in a Waterworld like a bad Kevin Costner movie? (I actually enjoyed that movie until he was afraid of a weird Dennis Hopper). However; is that our future of the polar caps melt?
I have a solution! Right now it’s isn’t feasible. However; Billionaires like Richard Branson may be laying the groundwork for our future salvation! Let’s face it, the polar caps melting will not affect us or our children or our children’s children but eventually our ancestors will be in trouble. The solution I foresee is to take the melted water from the caps into space and dump it into the atmosphere of Mars. Maybe that will make Mars inhabitable somehow.
Hold tight: SpaceShipTwo makes near-vertical plunge towards Earth on test flight as space tourism dream edges closer
Last updated at 4:11 PM on 5th May 2011
- Latest test saw SpaceShipTwo deploy its twin tail sections in a way to allow it to gently return to Earth’s atmosphere from the vacuum of space
After plunging towards Earth at a near-vertical angle, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo completed its latest test flight as plans to send tourists into space edged ever closer.
The ‘maiden feathered flight’ of SpaceShipTwo saw the rocket bend its wings into a near-right angle landing position after descending from 52,000ft.
SpaceShipTwo was lifted 6,000ft higher than during its last test flight in October, before an 11-minute descent demonstration which included 75 seconds in its ‘feathered’ mode.
As SpaceShipTwo descended almost vertically through the sky, it was slowed by the drag of the folded tail, similar to the way feathers slow a badminton shuttlecock.
Virgin Galactic’s rocket plane deployed its twin tail sections in a position created to allow it a soft return to the Earth’s atmosphere from the vacuum of space.
The craft, which was captured by ground photographers with high-powered telescopes, descends at 15,500ft per minute in its near-vertical state.
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During the test, SpaceShipTwo did not fire its rocket engine for a climb into space. Instead, a mothership lifted it to 52,000 feet where it was released.
It then rotated its twin tail booms upward 65 degrees during the test flight yesterday in the Mojave Desert, California, Virgin Galactic said.
The latest test was hailed as a success by experts, with Will Pomerantz, Virgin Galactic vice president for special projects, tweeting soon after: ‘What an awesome way to start the day. SpaceShipTwo looked positively beautiful today on her maiden feathered flight!’
The reconfiguration will be a critical part of the spaceship’s descent through Earth’s atmosphere after suborbital trips into space.
At 34,000 feet, pilots returned SpaceShipTwo to its normal configuration and landed it like an airplane.
The demonstration from release to touchdown lasted 11 minutes, including 75 seconds in the ‘feathered’ mode.
‘It flew stably,’ said Virgin Galactic chief executive George Whitesides.
SpaceShipTwo is based on Burt Rutan’s award-winning SpaceShipOne prototype, which became the first privately financed manned rocket to reach space in 2004.
Rutan retired last month from Scaled Composites, a company he founded that built and is testing SpaceShipTwo for Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.
SpaceShipTwo’s unique re-entry has been touted by aerospace experts as a way to overcome the problem of searing heat that other types of spacecraft face when they plunge back into the atmosphere at high speed.
NASA’s space shuttles need a layer of thermal tiles and Russia’s Soyuz rockets employ heat shields to insulate against damage during re-entry.
Another key test for SpaceShipTwo will come when engineers start powered flights into space, expected sometime this year.
Until now, all the tests have been unpowered glide flights.
No date has been set for the first commercial flight from a custom-built spaceport in New Mexico.
Some 410 people have paid the full $200,000 or a deposit for a chance to experience a few minutes of weightlessness, according to Virgin Galactic.
WOW! Space the Final Frontier, Finally coming true for a few rich people in the world. At $200,000 a flight, that puts it just slightly out of my price range lol. Will this lead to major advances in technology? Will NASA adapt the technology? Will others follow? Will this lead to affordable prices in my lifetime? This is indeed a very big deal! A World changing event! A life changing event. This proves that dreams really do come true and that if you put your mind to it (it helps to have a bunch of geniuses helping you, and a boat load of cash lol) that you can accomplish anything! Let this event change your life and change your way of thinking. Anything can be done if you want it bad enough! This is proof!
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