Scientists trying to pierce the mystery of the rapid melting of ice in the region of Antarctica have used dolphin-like robots to gather data from the depths of the south pole seas. The ‘dolphin’s allowed for them to document spots that would have otherwise been impossible to reach. It was then discovered the eddies would bring warmer layers of water to Antarctica.
The greatest fresh water reserves on our planet lie at its two poles in the form of ice. With the issue of global warming looming over our heads, the polar ice sheets have gained more and more attention over time. It has been observed that those found off the West Antarctica coast are melting ever so rapidly. What is causing this rapid thawing of the ice? To unravel this mystery, scientists have sent robots which bear resemblance to dolphins into the ocean to glean whatever precious information that is available down there.
The method of using robots to get the job done was chosen because the West Antarctica seas are difficult to nagivate through by ships. The machines were designed to be sleek, around two-meter long, and to have the size of dolphins. The relatively small size allowed for the efficient use of energy. The robots would gather data by taking ocean samples and they would occasionally glide to the surface to interact with the researchers via a phone-like device, sending them the available data. The ‘dolphins’ were released off the coast of Antarctica in January 2012.
The robots were able to dive one kilometer deep into the Antarctic waters, providing greater insight into the activity occurring at such depths. It was thus found that swirling eddies would push a warm layer of water from warmer regions to that of Antarctica.
The evidence gathered suggests that ocean warming is the main factor affecting the ice shelves. The scientists also wanted a better understanding of how the heat was operating on the ice: this is where the ‘dolphins’ can come in handy.
The precious information brought forth by the ‘dolphins’ is expected to allow for better calculations of the rising sea levels and the rate of ice thawing.