Tags: Climate Change | Antarctic ice | robot submarine

Robot Submarine Finds Antarctic Ice Thicker Than Believed

By    |   Wednesday, 26 Nov 2014 04:52 PM

Global warming theories just took a major hit with a surprising discovery by British, U.S. and Australian researchers who found that Antarctic underwater ice is much thicker than scientists had believed it to be.

After four years of study using a robot submarine called SeaBED, the researchers found that Antarctic ice averages from 4.5 to 18 feet in thickness, Breitbart reports.

Previously, scientists had believed Antarctic ice was only about 3.2-16.4 feet (1-5 meters) thick, Carbon Brief reports, but the new discovery indicates that in some areas, Antarctic ice may measure up to 16 meters (52 feet) thick.

Writing in the journal Nature Geoscience, the research team stated: "We suggest that thick ice in the near-coastal and interior pack may be under-represented in existing in situ assessments of Antarctic sea ice and hence, on average, Antarctic sea ice may be thicker than previously thought," Breitbart reports.

In fact, the team speculates that Antarctic ice may actually be growing in thickness.

"While we have not measured all Antarctic sea ice thickness and cannot state if Antarctic sea ice is getting thicker, this study is a huge step towards the sort of expanded and more routine measurements we will need to do to truly answer these questions," Australian oceanographer Guy Williams, of the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, said, Xinhuanet reported.

For the past four years, an AUV (autonomous underwater vehicle) robot submarine has been scanning the Antarctic ice from the underside. The twin-hulled submarine can work at 100 feet in depth. Weighing 200 kilograms, or 440 pounds, the sub, with three propellers, uses upward-facing sonar to create a three-dimensional map of the area above it, The Register reports.

Dr. Rob Massom, senior research scientist with the Australian Antarctic Division, said that prior to using the submarine, the job had been low-tech and manual, involving the labor-intensive drilling of holes.

"We look over the side of icebreakers and we look at the way that the icebreaker overturns the sea ice and we do a visual estimate on the hour every hour," Breitbart reported.

The robot sub "provided a new view of Antarctic sea ice with three dimensional maps. It's like going from a broken pair of binoculars to a brand new telescope," Williams said.

Ted Maksym, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution oceanographer, told NBC News that "if we don't know how much ice there is, we can't validate the models we use to understand the global climate."

How the Antarctic sea ice forms "remains one of the great unknowns in the climate system," Carbon Brief reported Maksym said.

Scientist Jeremy Wilkinson of the British Antarctic Survey said "climate scientists modeling a warming world are baffled by the behavior of the southern ice," The Register reported.

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Global warming theories just took a major hit with a surprising discovery by British, U.S. and Australian researchers who found that Antarctic underwater ice is much thicker than scientists had believed it to be.
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2014-52-26
Wednesday, 26 Nov 2014 04:52 PM
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