Ice Ice Baby
A team of scientists successfully drilled a hole more than a mile deep through Antarctica's ice and into the sediment below – an achievement they say could lead to a better understanding of the future of sea levels in the face of climate change.
"I've waited for this moment for a long time and I am delighted that we have finally achieved our goal," lead scientist Andy Smith said in a statement. "There are gaps in our knowledge of what's happening in West Antarctica and by studying the area where ice is sitting on soft sediments, we can better understand how this region can change in the future and contribute to global sea-level rise."
The team used hot water to cut a narrow, record-setting hole two miles (1.2 miles) long through Antarctica's ice. They worked in conditions that they said dropped to -30 degrees Celsius (-22 degrees Fahrenheit.)
The drilling project, called BEAMISH, has been in the works for 20 years. A previous attempt, in 2004, was unsuccessful.
The researchers hope that by studying the sediment under the ancient ANtarctic ice, they will be able to better predict how climate change will cause the frozen continent to melt – and how much melting ice will affect global sea levels.
"We know that the warmer ocean waters are eroding many of the West Antarctic's glaciers," said oceanographer Keith Makinson. "What we're trying to understand is how slippery the sediment under these glaciers is, and therefore how quickly they could flow off the continent into the sea. This will help us determine the future sea level rise from West Antarctica with more certainty. "