A highly-pressurized 290-mile-long river of meltwater discovered under the Antarctic ice sheet – Daily Kos

Wired Magazine recently reported that an area of Antarctica the size of France and Germany combined is channeling meltwater into a nearly 300-mile-long river at the base of Antarctica that empties into the sea. Scientists have been aware of a vast network of water in the ice of Antarctica for years.
The highly pressurized freshwater systems play a significant role in the fast flow of the ice shelf above — “the water exits the ice sheet at specific locations, appearing to drive ice-shelf melting in these areas critical for the ice-sheet stability.”
The study published in Nature GeoScience found that “high-pressure distributed drainage plays a key role in Antarctic fast flow, yet variability in ice-shelf topography at the grounding line, along with our modeling, provides strong evidence of large focused channels exiting many ice streams10,11″
The research turns what science has believed for thirty years to be that the ice is frozen at the bed, adds new complexity to an already complex system of ice and water on its head. London glaciologist Martin Siegert stated, “Now we’re in a position that we’ve just never been in before, to understand the whole of the Antarctic ice sheet.”
From Wired Magazine:

As the scientists found out, it moves very weirdly. Because there can be miles of ice resting on Antarctica’s land, and because the region isn’t warming as fast as the Arctic, the ice doesn’t melt the way you might think, from the sun striking the surface. That’s the way it works in places like Greenland, where ever-warming temperatures are creating lakes on the surface of the ice, and that water then leaks down through crevasses, known as moulins.
But in Antarctica, the basal melt instead comes from the land warming the ice. While it’s not volcanically boisterous, Antarctica has enough geothermal heat to get melt going. Further heat is provided by friction, as the ice grinds across bedrock. That means that instead of the melt happening top down, it happens at the bottom.
It’s not a tremendous amount of melt per square foot. But over an area that’s the size of two large European countries, that scales up. “What we concluded is the melting is really small—it’s like a millimeter per year,” says Siegert. “But the catchment is enormous, so you don’t need much melting. That all funnels together into this river, which is several hundred kilometers long, and it’s three times the rate of flow of the river Thames in London.
That water is under extreme pressure, both because there’s a lot of ice pressing down from above and because there isn’t much room between the ice and the bedrock for the liquid to move around. “And because it’s under high pressure, it can act to lift the ice off its bed, which can reduce friction,” Siegert says. “And if you reduce that basal friction, the ice can flow much quicker than it would do otherwise.” Think of that ice like a puck sliding across an air hockey table, only instead of riding on air, the ice is riding on pressurized water.
The story’s lead author, Christine Dow of Waterloo University, notes that in Antarctica, the meltwater is held back by the massive marine extensions of land glaciers which act like a cork holding the river water back from entering the sea. The problem is that the marine glacial extensions are carved into cavities near the grounding line by warm ocean upwelling. As a result, Dow says, “So anything that is going to change where that grounding line rests is going to have significant control on how much sea level rise we have in the future.” 
Exhibit A for the cavities that decay the underbellies of Antarctic glaciers such as Thwaites, a/ka the Doomsday glacier, rapidly breaking into fragments on both the eastern and western tongues. It is likely to shatter within three to five years (not collapse), raising sea levels worldwide by two feet when the failure occurs. But Thwaites has the potential to take the entire West Antarctica ice sheet down, raising the sea level by ten and a half feet.
The warm ocean upwelling is battering the grounding line due to tidal pumping. “When tides go in and out, they heave the ice shelf up and down, allowing warm seawater to rush inland and melt the underside of the ice. This new research shows that pressurized meltwater comes from the other direction, flowing from inland to the grounding line.” The potential for a significant sea level rise is that the grounded ice displaces salt water and instantly threatens the coastline worldwide.
Antarctica’s 131 Feet Front-End Glacier Causes Underwater’ Internal Tsunami,’ Study Reveals
Scientists riding on an Antarctic research vessel witnessed the front of a glacier crumble, and their readings “went off the scale.” In addition to observing disturbances on the surface of the ocean, they documented “internal” underwater tsunamis as high as a house, a phenomenon previously ignored in the knowledge of ocean mixing and computer models.
Their research findings were published today in the journal Science Advances by a team led by British Antarctic Survey (BAS) researchers. Internal tsunamis play a vital role in ocean blending, which affects marine life, temperatures at various depths, and the amount of ice that may melt. In Antarctica, ice rushes to the coast in glacier-filled valleys. Though some ice melts through into the ocean, much of it breaks off forming icebergs, which can differ in size from tiny bits to countries.
Many glaciers finish in the sea, hence their tips frequently break off producing icebergs. This can induce large waves on the surface, but the team knows that it also causes waves deep under the water. When these internal waves break, they force the water to mix, which affects sea life, how warm it is at various depths, and how much ice it may melt, which is critical for the scientists to comprehend, Meredith emphasized.
Ocean mixing affects where nutrients are found in the ocean, which is important for biodiversity and ecosystems. Researchers believed they understood what was causing this mixing-in the summer. They assumed it was mostly wind and tides, but it never dawned on them that iceberg calving might create internal tsunamis which would really mix things up.

The #penguins of Dawson-Lambton Colony are very busy in this time of year🐧🐧🐧🐧🐧

Enhanced color images taken by @CopernicusEU #Sentinel2 satellites since late September.

Data processed in @sentinel_hub #penguin #Antarctica pic.twitter.com/282fEkWWNf

We can’t fight climate change with looney’s sabotaging almost every effort for mitigation. For six years in a row, XI and Putin continue to block protections for the continent of Antarctica.

Scientific American  writes:
That’s despite the support of a majority of CCAMLR’s member parties. Just two nations—China and Russia—declined to support new marine protected areas, or MPAs, this year. The same two members have blocked similar proposals in other recent years.
An international meeting dedicated to the conservation of Antarctica’s delicate ocean ecosystems has once again ended in deadlock.
The motives are not always clear. But they may involve a growing interest in expanding fisheries and other economic opportunities throughout the Southern Ocean.
It’s the latest example of gridlock, incited by just one or two member nations, in the Antarctic Treaty System. And it may be part of a worrying trend. Experts say some nations, most frequently China or Russia, are increasingly using “spurious science” and other bad-faith arguments as justification to block conservation measures that most other members support.
The motives are not always clear. But they may involve a growing interest in expanding fisheries and other economic opportunities throughout the Southern Ocean.
“It’s this weird politicization of science,” said Tony Press, an adjunct professor….

Antarctica pic.twitter.com/IhSP69rWGk
Though this video is dated, some of the answers on Antarctic hydrology have been answered. But, with this study, even more, questions have risen as a result. 

From gmoke. You might want to follow him on Dkos. He does great work.
I’ve been doing Energy (and Other) Events (http://hubevents.blogspot.com) for over a decade and thought, when I began, that the environmental community would be interested in seeing all the public events on energy and climate and environment available at Harvard, MIT, BU, Tufts, Northeastern….  but it didn’t turn out that way.  Only EDF ever subscribed and I got tired of trying to interest the others.
Now I publish Energy (and Other) Events Monthly (instead of weekly) and cover online events around the world.  I have no expectations and simply amuse myself.  The next edition should be cross-posted to Dailykos in a day or two.  If you know of any climate or energy institutions I should be tracking for their events, please let me know.  
It would be good if the enviro community wanted to attend these events and share notes to speed the flow of information but it hasn’t happened yet and, no expectations again, I suspect it won’t happen now.  Not when “climate action” is blocking traffic (foreseen by science fiction writer John Brunner back at the beginning of the 1970s) and gluing yourself to works of art.
Keep going, if only for your own amusement.  Gotta do something, right?
Solar IS Civil Defense,