As wind blows across the shelf's snow dunes, the snow layers and thick slab of floating ice beneath vibrates, producing low-pitched humming patterns.
A team of geophysicists from The American Geophysical Union, a non-profit organization, just released this Tuesday on YouTube, a video in which you can hear a buzzing a little scary that resonates in Antarctica. On top of being really cool to listen to, these recordings help scientists better understand the climatological and geologic processes that shape the Antarctic.
To study the ice shelf's physical characteristics, scientists buried sensitive seismometers beneath the snow to record the shelf's changing vibrations.
The researchers noticed that the height of seismic hum changes when under the influence of weather conditions of snow dunes "rebuilt" or when the temperature abruptly rises or falls. In Antarctica, ice shelves have been thinning, and in some cases retreating, due to rising air and ocean temperatures.
"The response of the ice shelf tells us that we can track extremely sensitive details about it", Chaput said.
Tracking changes in the ice shelf is crucial as, after they collapse, the resulting ice can raise sea levels significantly.
But if we deployed seismic sensors on more ice shelfs, you could observe subtle environmental changes, in minutes.
The new study is important because it suggests seismic stations can be used to monitor the conditions of ice shelves in real-time.
Changes to the ice shelf's seismic hum could indicate whether melt ponds or cracks in the ice are forming that might indicate whether the ice shelf is susceptible to breaking up.
"Basically, what we have on our hands is a tool to monitor the environment... and its impact on the ice shelf", he added. Antartica is experiencing an accelerating loss of mass from its ice shelves, which act as plugs holding back the world's largest stores of ice from flowing uninhibited into the ocean. They posted the eerie sounds online, along with a Geophysical Research Letters report on their greater research.