As Glaciers Melt, a New Island Popped Up in Antarctica

by Theresa Machemer/Smithsonianmag.com

High temperatures in Antarctica earlier this month have caused ice caps to melt to an unprecedented degree. As the glaciers retreat, they release pressure on the continent, allowing the ground itself to rise up.

Sometimes, this effect stabilizes the ice by anchoring it in place, but rebounding ground could accelerate the glacial breakup by causing more cracks. When the latter happens and a glacier quickly sheds ice as the ground rises up, the land underneath maybe start to appear.

Such is the story of how a never-before-seen island emerged off the coast of Antarctica recently.

Members of the Thwaites Offshore Research (THOR) project first spotted the uncharted island while completing an expedition aboard the Nathaniel B. Palmer research vessel while passing through the Pine Island Bay, reports Nature News’ Giuliana Viglione. The island—named Sif after the goddess of Earth and the wife of the thunder god Thor—is big enough for satellites to spot from space but had previously been hidden under the ice.

Although experts don’t yet know how long the island has been free from its chilly hiding place, climate change is likely to blame for the reveal, per Nature News.

The Pine Island Glacier, which sends icebergs into…

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