What is underneath Antarctica’s fastest melting glacier?

A UK team of researchers has produced high-resolution maps of the bed beneath a major glacier in West Antarctica, which will help them predict future sea-level rise from this region. Radar surveys of the land beneath Pine Island Glacier have revealed a diverse landscape under the ice with some surprises. The results are published in the journal Nature Communications.

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Wind turbine at Australian station collapsed

Generating electricity in Antarctica is a tricky business. Most Antarctic stations use diesel generators and a few wind turbines, which is more sustainable. However, those wind turbines have to withstand harsh conditions and the strain on the material seems very big. At Australian Mawson station, part of a wind turbine collapsed on the evening of November 7. Luckily, no one was injured in the incident.

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Habitat influences penguin calls

Birds use vocalizations to attract mates, defend territories, and recognize fellow members of their species. But while we know a lot about how variations in vocalizations play out between populations of songbirds, it's far less clear how this variation affects birds such as penguins in which calls are inherited. A new study examines differences in the calls of Little Penguins from four colonies in Australia and finds that disparities in habitat, rather than geographic isolation or other factors, seem to be the key driver of variation in the sounds these birds use to communicate.

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Super-cooled Southern Ocean clouds aimed for investigation

Atmospheric scientists will use ships, aircraft and satellites to study super-cooled Southern Ocean clouds this summer. The project involving Australian and United States researchers will gather data on super-cooled cloud formations, which are clouds that remain as liquid water well below freezing.

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Ancient scars by icebergs tell story of ice retreat

Thousands of marks on the Antarctic seafloor, caused by icebergs which broke free from glaciers more than ten thousand years ago, show how part of the Antarctic Ice Sheet retreated rapidly at the end of the last ice age as it balanced precariously on sloping ground and became unstable. Today, as the global climate continues to warm, rapid and sustained retreat may be close to happening again, and could trigger runaway ice retreat into the interior of the continent, which in turn would cause sea levels to rise even faster than currently projected.

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Why albatross can sail the Southern Oceans

Albatrosses sail the Southern Oceans almost effortlessly. Even though known for centuries, only now, engineers have developed a new model to simulate dynamic soaring, and have used it to identify the optimal flight pattern that an albatross should take in order to harvest the most wind and energy. They found that as an albatross banks or turns to dive down and soar up, it should do so in shallow arcs, keeping almost to a straight, forward trajectory.

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Penguins like jelly: Gelatineous animals as part of penguin diet

Footage from penguin-mounted mini video recorders shows four species of penguin eating jellyfish and other gelatinous animals of the open ocean, a food source penguins were not previously believed to partake of, scientists report this month in the Ecological Society of America's peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

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New protected area in Antarctica after iceberg calving

An international agreement is now in place to give special protection to the area of ocean left exposed when one of the largest icebergs ever recorded broke free from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in July this year. The iceberg – known as A68 – is starting to move north, and it will leave behind a 5,818 km2 area of seabed exposed to open marine conditions. Much of this area may have been ice-covered since the last inter-glacial period around 120,000 years ago, providing a unique opportunity for scientists to study how marine life responds to this dramatic change.

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New bus to connect Australian Antarctic stations

Australian expeditioners will have new wheels when they travel across Antarctica this summer, with an upgraded bus destined for Australia’s Casey research station. The new bus will share the name of its predecessor, ‘Priscilla’, named by expeditioners after the iconic Australian movie about a road-trip across the Simpson Desert by a bus of the same name.

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Traces of life under Antarctic glacier discovered

Previous news about possible life forms under the ice of Antarctica had been published over the last few years. A new study by scientists from the Australian National University now found further evidence for this hypothesis. Previously undiscovered animals and plants may live in warm caves under Antarctica's glaciers. Forensic analysis of soil samples from caves on Ross Island revealed traces of DNA from algae, mosses and small animals.

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