Have scientists discovered the Atlas Fracture?

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MODIS Mosaic of Antarctica (MOA) Image Map / Anne le Brocq.

A story in the British paper The Telegraph details recent discoveries of vast water flows under Antarctic ice caps. These water flows, some of which are 250 meters deep reportedly flow out under the ice caps and carve channels into the ice shelves like the Ronne and Ross ice shelves, making the shelfs thinner in spots. The Atlas Fracture zone discovered at last?

“Vast streams found beneath Antarctic ice sheet.

“Giant channels of water almost the height of the Eiffel Tower have been discovered flowing beneath the Antarctic ice shelf.

“The streams of water, some of which are 250m in height and stretch for hundreds of kilometres, could be destabilising parts of the Antarctic ice shelf immediately around them and speeding up melting, researchers said.

“However, they added that it remains unclear how the localised effects of the channels will impact on the future of the floating ice sheet as a whole.

“The British researchers used satellite images and radar data to measure variations in the height of the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf in West Antarctica, which reveal how thick the ice is.
Writing in the Nature Geoscience journal, they described finding large rivers of meltwater beneath the floating ice shelf which had not previously been identified.”

More here.

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