The latest NASA study has unearthed a geothermal heat source called mantle plume that lies deep below Antarctica’s Marie Byrd Land. The discovery might provide explanations regarding the rapid collapse of ice sheet in an earlier era of abrupt climate change and answers the reason behind its instability.
According to NASA, the stability of an ice sheet is closely related to how much water lubricates it from below, allowing glaciers to slide more easily.
Understanding the sources would help scientists better estimate the rate of future ice loss in the area.
A scientist at the University of Colorado Denver first suggested that heat from a mantle plume under Marie Byrd Land might explain regional volcanic activity and a topographic dome feature.
Helene Seroussi of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California said, “I thought it was crazy. I didn’t see how we could have that amount of heat and still have ice on top of it".
Researchers studied the plume using numerical modelling with the Ice Sheet System Model (ISSM), revealing natural sources of heating and heat transport from a number of processes.