Antarctic Discovery: Ross Ice Shelf’s Daily Movements Revealed

Antarctic Discovery: Ross Ice Shelf’s Daily Movements Revealed

Researchers have made a remarkable discovery regarding the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica. This colossal ice shelf, comparable in size to France, experiences regular shifts, moving several centimeters on a daily basis. These movements are propelled by the Whillans Ice Stream, a swiftly flowing body of ice that occasionally halts before surging forward.

Unveiling the Dynamics

Unlike typical glaciers, which progress slowly, the Whillans Ice Stream demonstrates a distinctive start-and-stop pattern. The intermittent halting of this stream may result from a lack of lubrication beneath it, causing periodic sticking and subsequent release of built-up pressure in sudden bursts. These bursts, akin to tremors along earthquake faults, exert force against the Ross Ice Shelf.

Implications for Stability

While these daily movements aren’t directly attributable to human-induced warming, they may contribute to the destabilization of the Ross Ice Shelf. Ice shelves serve as barriers, impeding the flow of glaciers and ice streams into the ocean. Should the Ross Ice Shelf weaken and disintegrate, it could hasten the rate of ice melt and consequent sea level rise.

Monitoring and Future Prospects

The research team underscores that icequakes and fractures are natural events on ice shelves. Nonetheless, they are vigilant in monitoring the Ross Ice Shelf for indications of disintegration, akin to occurrences observed in smaller ice shelves previously.


This study underscores the intricate and dynamic nature of Antarctic ice shelves, emphasizing the necessity for ongoing research to comprehend their future in the context of a changing climate.

Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs):

  1. What triggers the daily movement of the Ross Ice Shelf?
    • A) Strong winds
    • B) Ocean currents
    • C) Whillans Ice Stream
    • D) Human activity
    • Answer: C) Whillans Ice Stream
  2. What distinguishes the movement of the Whillans Ice Stream from typical glaciers?
    • A) It moves at a glacial pace
    • B) It exhibits a start-and-stop motion
    • C) It is unaffected by changes in climate
    • D) It flows continuously without interruptions
    • Answer: B) It exhibits a start-and-stop motion
  3. How might the daily movements of the Ross Ice Shelf impact sea level rise?
    • A) They accelerate the melting of nearby icebergs
    • B) They strengthen the stability of the ice shelf
    • C) They slow down the flow of glaciers into the ocean
    • D) They could hasten ice melt rates and sea level rise
    • Answer: D) They could hasten ice melt rates and sea level rise
  4. What is emphasized as a natural occurrence on ice shelves?
    • A) Daily movements
    • B) Human-induced warming
    • C) Icequakes and fractures
    • D) Ocean currents
    • Answer: C) Icequakes and fractures