He was there one day … and not the next. What’s happened? What happened to the huge Antarctic lake that suddenly disappeared? The weight of the water itself was the cause of this rare occurrence. The study was published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
It happened in the Antarctic winter of 2019, when an estimated 750 million cubic meters of water went into the sea. It’s about twice the size of San Diego Bay.
The Scripps Institute of Oceanography at the University of California at San Diego used satellite imagery. You set the event to be a week or less in June. After the drainage, a crater-shaped depression formed in place of the lake. This covered about eleven square kilometers. This surface depression, known as the ice sinkhole, contained the broken remains of the ice sheet.
“We believe the weight of the accumulated water in this deep lake caused this. This opened a crevice in the ice shelf below the lake. A process known as a hydrofracture. And it drained the water into the ocean below. He said it it’s a statement the study’s lead author, Roland Warner.
The hydrofracturing process takes place on smaller ice shelves. But it’s not often seen breaking through 1400-meter-thick ice. In the past few decades, the rise in air temperature has influenced this. The risk of a generalized hydrofracture is more likely these days.
Water and more water
The water loss in the ocean was calculated. They used the volume of the cavity and the amount of buoyancy. The elevation of the lake created a new lake from a flat arm of the original. In the thawing season that followed, this lake filled up to over a million cubic meters per day in just a few days. And in the end it overflowed into the hollow of the sinkholes.
“This abrupt event was apparently the culmination of a process. Melt water has accumulated and stored for decades under this insulating cover made of ice. Until the gigantic, vanished Antarctic Sea suddenly came to an abrupt end.