The Earth’s mantle under the melting ice of Antarctica is moving at such a rapid rate it is changing the shape of the land.
At the surface, Antarctica appears to be a motionless and frozen landscape at the surface however hundreds of miles beneath – the Earth is moving at a rapid rate.
Earlier studies have shown that Earth is “rebounding” in response to shrinking overlying ice sheets – a byproduct of climate change.
Scientists believed the movement of the land was due to an instantaneous, elastic response followed by a very slow uplifting over thousands of years.
However, the GPS data collected in this new study suggests that the land in this region is rising at an accelerated rate of 15 millimeters per year.
The speed at which the land is rising is much greater than can be explained by the present day elastic response theory alone.
This study is the first to show how the mantle below Earth’s crust in the Northern Antarctic Peninsula is flowing much faster than expected.
Researchers believe this is most likely due to subtle changes in temperature or chemical composition.
This has resulted in a “runnier” mantle that can flow easily and responds quickly to the lightening load on the ice shelves hundreds of miles above it – changing the shape of the land.
The phenomenon is not new. Since 1995 several ice shelves in this Antarctic region have collapsed and triggered ice-mass unloading, causing the solid Earth to “bounce back.
“Seeing this sort of deformation of the Earth at such a rate is unprecedented in Antarctica. What is particularly interesting here is that we can actually see the impact that glacier thinning is having on the rocks 250 miles down,” co-author Professor Peter Clarke concluded.