Global Warming

Enormous Antarctic lake vanishes in 3 days

An enormous, ice-covered lake in Antarctica vanished suddenly, and scientists are worried it could happen again.

In this disappearing act, which researchers say occurred during the 2019-2020 winter on the Amery Ice Shelf in East Antarctica, an estimated 21 billion to 26 billion cubic feet (600 million to 750 million cubic meters) of water — roughly twice the volume of San Diego Bay — drained into the ocean.

The scientists who used satellite observations to capture the shocking vanishing act say the lake drained in roughly three days after the ice shelf beneath it gave way.

“We believe the weight of water accumulated in this deep lake opened a fissure in the ice shelf beneath the lake, a process known as hydrofracture, causing the water to drain away to the ocean below,” Roland Warner, a glaciologist at the University of Tasmania.

Hydrofracturing leaves behind a gigantic fissure which compromises the structural integrity of the sheet as a whole. As meltwater lakes and streams multiply across the surface of Antarctica, researchers are concerned that growing volumes of surface meltwater could cause more hydrofracturing events, thus elevating sea levels above current projections.

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