Dropped through the massive ice sheets on the Ross Ice Shelf, half-mile long thermometres will begin to give scientists and researchers across the world relevant data on sea and ice temperatures that will help them track climate change and its effect on the glacial ice surrounding Antarctica.
The thermometres were deployed by a team based at the University of Nevada, Reno, led by Scott Tyler. Located 25 kilometres from McMurdo Station, Tyler worked alongside David Holland of New York University, Victor Zagorodnov of The Ohio State University and Alon Stern of New York University.
The ‘thermometre’ is actually an 800 metre length of standard telecommunications fiber-optic cable that has been armoured to withstand the pressures and conditions of the Antarctic Ocean.
The team drilled through 200 metres of ice so that they could then drop the whole length down to reach the ocean floor.
This means that not only does the cable record temperatures along every metre of the cable, but it can also measure the currents at the ocean floor.
“Never Before Done”
“This technology is allowing us to do something never before done; to record continuous temperature data in and under the ice shelf,” said Tyler. “The ice shelves serve as the ‘corks‘ holding the large glaciers of west Antarctica from sliding into the ocean and raising sea level.”
“The melting of the ice shelves from below by warmer ocean water represents a critical unknown in the assessment of Antarctic ice sheet collapse and the potential for very rapid sea level rise around the world. This will allow us to assess the potential for collapse.”
Tyler added that the primary objectives of this first field season were to test the drilling design, the fiber-optic installation and sending, and the logistics of continuous monitoring and power system development for a full year of operation in Antarctica.
“The instruments are all ready for the winter now, with wind power, solar and camera set to record ocean temperatures through the seasons,” he said. “We’re already getting data downloads here at home eight times a day and the system is recording and sending temperatures and pressures perfectly. Our goals are to show that we can install these monitoring systems quickly and inexpensively, and then provide continuous data via satellite links throughout the long Antarctic winter.”
Source: University of Nevada, Reno