In an effort to find out what is happening under the West Antarctic ice sheet, scientists have installed a network of seismographs, appropriately called “Polenet.” The brutal conditions have made such research difficult in the past, as delicate equipment normally only lasts a few months. But improvements in battery life and data storage mean the researchers now have access to a network of about 35 seismographs which have been running since 2007, enough time to gather a significant amount of data. Why is this important? The West Antarctic ice sheet is very heavy! It has compressed the ground underneath and scientists would like to figure out what might happen if the ice were to melt. They would expect there to be some rebound, but how much and where are questions that Polenet might answer. What else can we find out abour Polenet? Let’s check page 5 of the results:
From Digitalunion, a list of all the key hypotheses of the Polenet project:
- The West Antarctic Ice Sheet is losing mass
- The rift structure of West Antarctica contributes to ice streaming and instability of the West Antarctic ice sheets
- The mantle beneath West Antarctica is weak and warm, which affects how the Earth responds to changes in ice mass.
- Uplift of highlands provided growth points for Antarctica’s ice sheets.
Polenet stands for “Polar Earth Observing Network,” according to Unavco.org
It is a consortium of scientists from 28 different nations, all dedicated to improving coverage the geophysical data across the polar regions of the earth. Students, faculty and researchers from Central Washington University are amongst those involved in setting up and monitoring the equipment.
They have a Facebook page! http://www.facebook.com/pages/POLENET-the-polar-earth-observing-network/116936564998724?v=info. I’m going to like it and you should too!
Also a wordpress blog, but it hasn’t been updated since 2009. 😦
Finally, for extra credit, check out the flooding maps on this site, which show what part of the world would be underwater if the sea levels rose 7m! It’s sobering stuff.
(Guess the Explorer will be back next Sunday. This week I was on a train traveling across the USA, with no computer or internet!)