Antarctic ice shelf makes ghostly sounds as winds whip across its surface

Relatively warmer waters eating away at ice shelves

A haunting sound captured by researchers could help monitor changes to Antarctica's Ross Ice Shelf from afar.

For this reason, they have buried 34 monitors seismic under the layer of snow from the sea ice of Ross so they can capture that awesome noise.

Studying the vibrations - and how they change based on changes to the ice shelf - could give researchers a sense of the effect of climate change on the region, according to University of Chicago glaciologist Douglas MacAyeal, who penned a commentator on the effect in Geophysical Research Letters.

When scientists analyzed acoustic data collected between 2014 and 2017, they realized the snow dunes atop the Ross Ice Shelf are constantly vibrating.

Relatively warmer waters eating away at ice shelves.

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When the researchers started analyzing seismic data on the Ross Ice Shelf, they noticed something odd: Its fur coat was nearly constantly vibrating.

"We discovered that the shelf almost continuously sings at frequencies of five or more cycles per second", the authors explain, "excited by local and regional winds blowing across its snow dune‐like topography".

Ice shelves are covered in a thin blanket of snow, typically several meters deep, that insulates the ice below from warming and melting like a fur coat.

Mr Chaput said weather conditions can change the frequency of the vibrations, thereby changing the tune.

The scientists liken it to "singing", but to our ears the creepy dirge of Antarctic ice shelf vibrations sounds more like the sinister score of a horror movie.

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Changes to the ice shelf's "seismic hum" could also indicate whether cracks in the ice are forming that might indicate whether the ice shelf is susceptible to breaking up.

"The response of the ice shelf tells us that we can track extremely sensitive details about it", Chaput said.

"Basically, what we have on our hands is a tool to monitor the environment... and its impact on the ice shelf", he added.

The normal human hearing range is 20Hz to 20,000Hz (though this upper limit drops off as we age) and the ice shelf "continuously "sings" at frequencies of five or more cycles per second (or 5Hz)".

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