Environment & Biodiversity

Icequakes on the Ross Ice Shelf

  • Scientists discovered that the massive Ross Ice Shelf, which is nearly the size of France, shifts a few centimetres every day.
  • This occurs as a result of the Whillans Ice Stream, a fast-moving river of ice that occasionally becomes stopped before rapidly pushing onward.

About the Ross Ice Shelf.

  • Ross Ice Shelf is the biggest ice shelf in Antarctica, nearly the size of France.
  • It was found by Sir James Clark Ross on January 28, 1841.
  • The shelf covers around 500,809 square kilometres, which is comparable to France or Canada’s Yukon Territory.
  • It’s many hundred metres thick. The ice on the shelf’s southern portions, near the True South Pole, can be up to 750 metres thick. 
  • The virtually vertical ice front to the open sea is around 600 km long and rises 15 to 50 metres above the water’s surface. However, 90% of the floating ice lies below the water’s surface.
  • It is largely supplied by massive glaciers, or ice streams, which move ice from the high polar ice sheets of East and West Antarctica.
  • New Zealand claims the Ross Dependency, which includes the majority of the Ross Ice Shelf.
  • It floats in and covers a considerable area of the Ross Sea’s southern end, as well as Roosevelt Island to the east.

Spotlight: Icequakes on Ross Ice Shelf

  • Ice Stream Influence: While most glaciers flow slowly, the Whillans Ice Stream abruptly stops and restarts. This might happen because there isn’t enough water underneath to keep it moving smoothly.
  • Sudden motions: These motions, which resemble miniature earthquakes, press against the Ross Ice Shelf.
  • Threat to Stability: Although these daily fluctuations are not driven by people, they may weaken the Ross Ice Shelf over time. Ice shelves impede the movement of ice into the ocean.
  • Glacier retreat: If the Ross Ice Shelf weakens or breaches, melting may accelerate as sea levels rise. 

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