Massive amount of water found below Antarctica's ice sheet for 1st time

Researcher Chloe Gustafson, of UC San Diego's Scripps Institution of Oceanography, prepares to install a magnetotelluric station to map beneath the ice during 2018 field work in Antarctica.

(CNN)Hidden deep below the ice sheet that covers Antarctica, scientists have discovered a massive amount of water.

The groundwater system, found in deep sediments in West Antarctica likely to be the consistency of a wet sponge, reveals an unexplored part of the region and may have implications for how the frozen continent reacts to the climate crisis, according to new research.
"People have hypothesized that there could be deep groundwater in these sediments, but up to now, no one has done any detailed imaging," said the study's lead author, Chloe Gustafson, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California San Diego's Scripps Institution of Oceanography, in a news statement.
    "Antarctica contains 57 meters (187 feet) of sea level rise potential, so we want to make sure we are incorporating all of the processes that control how ice flows off of the continent and into the oceans. Groundwater is currently a missing process in our models of ice flow," she added via email.
      The ice cap that covers Antarctica isn't a rigid whole. Researchers in Antarctica have discovered in recent years hundreds of interconnected liquid lakes and rivers cradled within the ice itself. But this is the first time the presence of large amounts of liquid water in below-ice sediments has been found.
      The authors of this study, which published in the journal Science on Thursday, concentrated on the 60-mile-wide (96.6-kilometer-wide) Whillans Ice Stream, one of a half-dozen streams feeding the Ross Ice Shelf, the world's largest, at about the size of Canada's Yukon Territory.
      Gustafson and her colleagues spent six weeks in 2018 mapping the sediments beneath the ice. The research team used geophysical instruments placed directly on the surface to execute a technique called magnetotelluric imaging.
        The team of researchers spent six weeks in Antarctica.
        The technique can detect the differing degrees of electromagnetic energy conducted by ice, sediment, bedrock fresh water and salt water and create a map from these different sources of information.
        "We imaged from the ice bed to about five kilometers (3.1 miles) and even deeper," said coauthor Kerry Key, an associate professor of earth and environmental sciences at Columbia University, in a separate statement.
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