A team of scientists successfully breaks a hole more than a mile deep into the Antarctic ice and sediment below – an achievement they say can lead to a better understanding of the future of sea levels in the conditions of climate change.
"I have long been waiting for this moment, and I am glad that we have finally achieved our goal," lead scientist Andy Smith said in a statement. "There are gaps in our knowledge of what is happening in West Antarctica and by exploring the area where the ice sits on soft sludge, we can better understand how this region can change in the future and contribute to the global rise sea level. "
The team uses hot water to carve a narrow, record-length hole 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) across the Antarctic ice. They work under conditions that they say reduce to -30 degrees Celsius (-22 degrees Fahrenheit).
The drilling project called BEAMISH has been working for 20 years. Previous experience in 2004 was unsuccessful.
Researchers hope that by studying the sediment of the ancient A.ice, they will be better able to predict how climate change will melt the frozen continent – and how much melting the ice will affect the global sea level.
"We know that warmer ocean waters undermine many of the glaciers in Western Antarctica," said oceanographer Keith McCain. "We are trying to figure out how slippery the sediment is under these glaciers and how quickly they can flow from the continent into the sea. This will help us determine the future rise of the Western Antarctic sea level with greater certainty. "