London, September 15 (ANI): The first complete map of the lakes beneath Antarctica's ice sheets reveals the continent's secret water network is far more dynamic than we thought, and could be acting as a powerful lubricant beneath glaciers, contributing to sea level rise.
According to a report in New Scientist, Ian Joughin at the University of Washington in Seattle and colleagues developed the map.
Unlike previous lake maps, which are confined to small regions, Joughin and colleagues mapped 124 subglacial lakes across Antarctica using lasers on NASA's ICESat satellite.
The team also observed the lakes draining and filling.
While interior lakes tended to be static, many coastal lakes changed significantly. Some even appear to be connected by channels under the ice hundreds of kilometres long.
For instance, when upstream lakes under the Recovery glacier drained 3 cubic kilometres of water, lakes downstream gained a similar amount.
Water flowing under glaciers can act as a lubricant, causing land ice to accelerate into the sea and add to rising sea levels.
"The implications for the flow of ice are potentially quite significant," said Andy Smith of the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, UK.
"Those lakes with no clear drainage channels are of particular interest because they could be spreading a thin film of lubricating water under glaciers," he added. (ANI)