"The surface of the remote Antarctic ice sheet may be a far more dynamic place than scientists imagined, new research suggests. Decades of satellite imagery and aerial photography have revealed an extensive network of lakes and rivers transporting liquid meltwater across the continent’s ice shelves — nearly 700 systems of connected pools and streams in total.
“A handful of previous studies have documented surface lakes and streams on individual ice shelves over a span of a few years,” glaciologist Alison Banwell of the University of Cambridge wrote in a comment on the new research, published Wednesday in the journal Nature. “But the authors’ work is the first to extensively map meltwater features and drainage systems on all of Antarctica’s ice shelves, over multiple decades.”
The findings, presented Wednesday in a pair of papers in Nature, could upend our understanding of the way meltwater interacts with the frozen ice sheet. We now know that, rather than simply pooling where it melts in every case, liquid water may run for miles across the continent first — and that discovery comes with some worrying implications."