by Alex Fox/Smithsonianmag.com
A huge Antarctic Lake disappeared over the course of just three days in June 2019 after the ice shelf beneath the lake collapsed, reports Ben Turner for Live Science. The fractured ice shelf sent an estimated 21 to 26 billion cubic feet of water into the ocean.
Researchers spotted the vanishing lake while poring over satellite imagery of the region and published their analysis of the event last week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
Roland Warner, a glaciologist at the University of Tasmania and lead author of the study, tells Becky Ferreira of Vice that in January 2020 he was monitoring the destruction wrought by last year’s catastrophic wildfires in Australia using satellite imagery when he decided to take a peek farther south.
“Looking down to Antarctica, for a break from watching the destruction, I noticed a spell of several clear days on Amery Ice Shelf and decided to see how the summer surface melt season was progressing,” he tells Vice via email. “The collapsed surface feature caught my eye.”
By looking back in time at prior satellite imagery from NASA’s ICESat-2, Warner was able to pinpoint the lake’s demise. On June 9, 2019, the lake was there, but by June 11 it was gone, according to Vice.