Geothermal Heating Discovered Under Ice Sheets in Antarctica

When one thinks of Antarctica, one generally thinks of blistering cold storms for months on end, penguins, and huge ice caps. What you generally don’t associate with the continent is secret geothermal heating sources.

In fact, it seems a bit counterintuitive to find such a thing, but that is exactly what happened recently. A National Science Foundation drilling project‘s data, combined with the findings of a team of researchers, shed light onto the phenomenon of heat flow from the Earth to the zone below the ice sheet.

Finding the secret geothermal heating

The find came from when the team was monitoring a borehole on the western side of Antarctica. Temperatures measured were really high, according to the press release by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The team also published their findings in the Science Advances journal on Friday.

Although the temperature was unusually high from this secret geothermal heating, it does not account for the massive loss of ice that has been observed in research, says one researcher on the team. But the heating may account for why the area seems a bit unstable and volatile.

The study was made possible by using previously collected data from the aforementioned drilling project, which was funded by an award from the NSF’s Division of Polar Programs. The section of the NSF is helping to produce more opportunities for research and collect more research on the ice sheet to better understand the unique ecosystem in the harsh environment. But not only that, it helps to understand the landscape better as well.

Other Findings about the polar geothermal heating

The secret heating find also could provide a reason for why there are underground lakes or streams, which may aid in the ice sheet’s speed. However, this was only on the western side and the heat flow is bound to be different on different parts of the ice sheet.

Something else to keep in mind is that this area is also where there is some volcanic activity that also may account for the secret heating. However, there needs to be more research done before anything more conclusive comes up.


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