Antarctic ice shelf 'sings' as winds whip across its surface


A team of geophysicists from The American Geophysical Union, a non-profit organization, just released this Tuesday on YouTube, a video in which you can hear a buzzing a little scary that resonates in Antarctica.

The Ross Ice Shelf at the Bay of Whales - the point where Amundsen staged his successful assault on the South Pole.

Researchers studying the Ross Ice Shelf have discovered a new and freakish acoustic phenomenon. But as if that wasn't enough, scientists found that when the wind blows across its surface, the ice shelf hums eerie soundscapes that would fit right in a B-movie horror flick.

"We discovered that the shelf almost continuously sings at frequencies of five or more cycles per second, excited by local and regional winds blowing across its snow dune‐like topography", in a press release. That's because vibrations in the ice shelf's insulating blanket could give scientists a sense of how the whole ice shelf is responding to climate conditions. It is more of a creepy sound caused by the vibration sounds, and the frequency is too low to be audible to the human ear.

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To better understand the physical properties of the Ross Ice Shelf, researchers buried 34 extremely sensitive seismic sensors under its snowy surface. "Basically, what we have on our hands is a tool to monitor the environment, really".

Julien Chaput, an ambient noise monitoring expert at Colorado State University and new faculty member at the University of Texas, El Paso, told Earther that the recordings are a "happy accident".

Chaput considers seismic monitoring to be a good way to keep an eye on Antarctica's ice shelves, which are considered to be among the most remote locales in the world.

The pitch of this hum also changed when weather conditions altered the snow layer's surface, vibrating at different frequencies when strong storms rearranged snow dunes or when the air temperatures at the surface increased or deceased. Details like melt ponds or cracks forming that might indicate whether the shelf is liable to break up. They posted the eerie sounds online, along with a Geophysical Research Letters report on their greater research.