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Underwater Robot Helps Scientists Clarify Antarctic Ice Melting

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The Icefin robot beneath the sea ice in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica.

The Icefin robot's journey revealed, among other things, a new circulation pattern: a jet funneling water sideways through the crevasse.

Credit: Rob Robbins

A Cornell University-led team of scientists in the U.S. and New Zealand used the Icefin underwater robot to explore Antarctic ice crevasses to better understand their role in rising global sea levels.

The remotely operated robot charted the first three-dimensional model of ocean conditions in the grounding zone by navigating a crevasse in the base of the Ross Ice Shelf, measuring water temperature, pressure, and salinity.

Icefin exposed a jet diverting water laterally through the crevasse, as well as rising and sinking currents and ice formations shaped by changing flows and temperatures.

These findings could potentially enhance models for forecasting ice shelf melting and freezing rates at grounding zones.

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