An estimated 21 billion to 26 billion cubic feet of water (twice the volume of San Diego Bay) had drained into the ocean from an ice-covered lake in Antarctica within days. The lake vanished in three days after the ice shelf underneath it collapsed. This cave-in could have been prompted by climate change, scientists feared. The event took place in 2019 on the Amery Ice Shelf in East Antarctica and was noticed in satellite images.
Roland Warner, a glaciologist at the University of Tasmania and lead author of a new study published in the Geophysical Research Letters journal last month, said the weight of the water that had accumulated in this deep lake resulted in an opening of a fissure in the ice shelf beneath it. This process, called hydrofracture, drains the water into the ocean and could raise sea levels.
Likening the water being released into the ocean to water gushing over Niagara Falls, Warner said after the ice shelf collapse, the region surrounding the lake – now without the water’s weight -- rose 118 feet or 36 meters from its original position.
In the summer of 2020, the lake had refilled in just a few days. Scientists are now trying to figure out if the water would create new fractures or disappear into the old fracture created in 2019. Scientists have warned that Antarctic surface melting could double by 2050, raising concerns about the stability of other ice shelves.
(Edited by : Shoma Bhattacharjee)