Australian researchers have discovered huge underwater lakes under the largest glacier in eastern Antarctica.
The lakes were discovered by scientists who switched off small explosives 2m below the surface of the Totten glacier and listened to the sound to reflect it.
Australian Antarctic Department glaciologist Dr Ben Galton-Fenzi said the research was essential to help scientists predict how the melting of Antarctic glaciers would change the world's seas.
The Totten glacier is 30km wide and up to two kilometers thick, and has the potential to raise the sea level by seven meters.
“The explosives were a solid source for us… and would then echo different layers in the ice,” said Galton-Fenzi at the Guardian.
“We put geophones [a series of microphones] along the surface of the glacier to listen to the sound to reflect it, giving us a picture of what is under the ice. ”
He said that the speed at which glaciers travel is determined by what they are moving across.
“If bedrock is under the glacier, it is sticky and will move more slowly, but if there is water or soft sediments, the glacier will move faster,” he said.
Galton-Fenzi said that the next step for researchers would be to drill to take a sample of the lakes but was concerned that there was no certainty of funding for future research.
“This is the single biggest problem we need to face and get answers over the next few decades,” he said.
“I'm not just a scientist saying‘ I need more money …… I have children who are six and eight years old and [climate change] a real threat to them. ”
The scientists, who were based at Casey's research station, were among over 550 expeditioners who traveled with the Australian Antarctic Program over the southern summer, working on more than 56 projects.