When the wind blows, Antarctic's ice shelf 'sings'

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If the video above is anything to go by, all you need is some very hard ice, some wind and a contact mic, and you might be able to create some insane natural feedback.

Ice shelves strengthen the surrounding ice sheets on the Antarctic continent.

"It's kind of like you're blowing a flute, constantly, on the ice shelf", said Chaput in a statement. From the data collected, they found the whipping of the winds across snow dunes caused rumbling in the snow blanket.

Studying the vibrations - and how they change based on changes to the ice shelf - could give researchers a sense of the effect of climate change on the region, according to University of Chicago glaciologist Douglas MacAyeal, who penned a commentator on the effect in Geophysical Research Letters.

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While the ice shelf's songs aren't audible to the human ear, the sensitive seismometers allowed scientists to decipher the frozen tunes.

Winds blowing across snow dunes on Antarctica's Ross Ice Shelf cause the massive ice slab's surface to vibrate, producing a near-constant set of seismic "tones" scientists could potentially use to monitor changes in the ice shelf from afar, according to new research. Extremely sensitive sensors were buried two metres under the surface to capture "seismic motions".

The difference in frequencies, or what Chaput describes as singing, happens as the surface of the snow dunes changes.

The snow provides a barrier between the air and the ice, which insulates it from warming temperatures, comparing it to a fur coat.

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But if we deployed seismic sensors on more ice shelfs, you could observe subtle environmental changes, in minutes.

Chaput considers seismic monitoring to be a good way to keep an eye on Antarctica's ice shelves, which are considered to be among the most remote locales in the world.

"Basically, what we have on our hands is a tool to monitor the environment... and its impact on the ice shelf", he added.

Researchers theorized that intense events that occurred above the ice layer were captured as seismic waves that travelled through the ice shelf. Details like melt ponds or cracks forming that might indicate whether the shelf is liable to break up.

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