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March 4, 2019

The perils of upgrading a particle detector buried in Antarctic ice

Enlarge / IceCube scientist Delia Tosi (right) and engineer Perry Sandstrom (left) install a prototype power and communications junction box at the South Pole. (credit: John Kelley / National Science Foundation)

The IceCube neutrino detector was an audacious design. The Super Kamiokande detector had shown that a huge mass of water could act as an effective particle detector. But that involved a giant tank built in a deep mine. IceCube would rely on a massive volume of water, but one that was put in place by nature: the Antarctic ice cap. That poses a large collection of challenges, from how to find hardware that can hold up to being [...]

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February 8, 2019

Studies question worst-case sea level rise, but lower rise ain’t great

Enlarge / The Stange ice shelf in Antarctica. (credit: Mark Brandon)

One of the most shocking climate science studies in recent years came in 2016. That study, from David Pollard at Penn State and Rob DeConto at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, showed that adding a couple physical processes to their model of the Antarctic ice sheets caused it to produce significantly more sea level rise this century. In their simulation, shrinking Arctic glaciers raised sea level by a full meter by 2100—and things only picked up from there.

These simulations were much closer to hypotheses than to iron-clad predictions. The model [...]

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January 24, 2019

Autonomous subs spend a year cruising under Antarctic ice

The freezing waters underneath Antarctic ice shelves and the underside of the ice itself are of great interest to scientists… but who wants to go down there? Leave it to the robots. They won’t complain! And indeed, a pair of autonomous subs have been nosing around the ice for a full year now, producing data unlike any other expedition ever has.

The mission began way back in 2017, with a grant from the late Paul Allen. With climate change affecting sea ice around the world, precise measurements and study of these frozen climes is more important than ever. And fortunately, robotic exploration technology had reached a point where long-term missions under [...]

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December 27, 2018

Listen to the Creepy Noises Picked Up at a Space Weather Station in Antarctica

Scientists often detect weird sounds in Antarctica, from the groans of melting glaciers to seismic waves rippling through ice shelves. But a space weather station run by the British Antarctic Survey may hold the most diverse selection of acoustic oddities collected on the frozen continent to date.

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