High temperatures in Antarctica earlier this month have induced ice caps to melt to an unparalleled degree. Glaciers release pressure on the continent as they melt, allowing the ground itself to rise up. With that, a never-before-visible island emerged off the coast of Antarctica recently, which is caused by record high temperatures revealed its rocky shore to passing scientists.
A group of polar researchers from the Thwaites Offshore Research (THOR) mission first noticed the unchartered island as their ship passed through Pine Island Bay in Antarctica. According to Nature News' report, the researchers spotted the place after finishing an expedition aboard the Nathaniel B. Palmer research vessel while passing thru the bay. The island has been named Sif after the Norse goddess of fertility and family, who was also the wife of the warrior god Thor, with the aid of the THOR glacier research team.
Climate change probably is in charge of the new revelation
Although researchers don't know yet how long the 634,400 square feet island has been freed from its cold hiding area, climate change is probably in charge of the revelation.
The Pine Island Glacier is one of the fastest-retreating glaciers in Antarctica because it is losing ice faster than the glacier is increasing outward. The glacier purged an iceberg twice the size of Washington, D.C. earlier this month.
Because ships rarely travel as far south as the Palmer did earlier this month, the crew is probably the primary to discover the island. Julia Wellner, University of Houston marine geologist and one of the lead investigators of the expedition, first shared the discovery on Twitter on February 11.
After being the first visitors, we can now confirm that Sif Island is made of granite and that it is covered by remnant ice shelf, and a few seals. Photos by CD Hillenbrand (BAS) and Laura Taylor (UH). @glacierthwaites @glacieroffshore @GAViglione #nbp2002 @BAS_News @UHEAS pic.twitter.com/dtWtdI95tL — Julia Smith Wellner (@houston_wellner) February 23, 2020
The Palmer team took samples from the island, which is made from granite. The specimen would provide insight into the way the continent is shifting. Cartographers for the British Antarctic Survey estimates the island is set 1,240ft across through 520ft wide, which is about the same length as Windsor Castle in England. Still, preliminary results from the crew won't be available until late March when the team returns to port.
The island remains a mystery
"This one island could maintain lots of clues," University of Virginia in Charlottesville glacial geologist Lauren Simkins told Nature News.
When Sif was noticed in the southern seas, most of northern Antarctica experienced a duration of more heat. NASA launched satellite photographs showing dramatic melting at the north tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. The pics, taken nine days apart, display Eagle Island's northern shore turned bare, and ponds of ice soften forming inside the middle of the island.
National Science Foundation's head of Antarctic sciences Alexandra Isern tells NPR's Bill Chappell that those snapshots had been taken on as far north in Antarctica. If any area is going to have the ones melt ponds, Isern said the phenomenon is clearly going to be in one place.