AUSTIN (KXAN) — A frozen lake in Antarctica has been discovered by a team from the University of Texas at Austin and it could be vital for climate change researchers. The study was published Monday in the science journal Geology.
The lake is about 100 miles from the coast. It was discovered beneath the East Antarctica Ice Sheet and is believed to be at least 34 million years old. Lake Snow Eagle, named after the aircraft that discovered it, is covered by two miles of ice.
Sediments in the lake might give climate change researchers a better understanding of what the continent looked like before it froze.
UT researchers said that Antarctica once had no ice. Sediments in the lake likely existed at this time and could give researchers a better idea of what led to the ice sheet’s formation.
The lake was first discovered using satellite imagery, after scientists spotted a smooth depression in the ice sheet.
They spent three years flying over the area, analyzing it with radar and sensors. They eventually saw the reflection of the water, which appears brighter on radar.
Using radar along with a combination of gravity and magnetic surveys, graduate student Shuai Yan was able to develop a topographical map of the area. The lake is 30 miles long, nine miles wide and 650 feet deep.
Researchers hope that sediments collected from the lake through drilling will help them discover how the ice sheet formed and the future of the ice sheet as climate change worsens.
The ice sheet is losing significant amounts of ice as a direct result of climate change, according to scientists with NASA.