Mystery solved: Award winning photo reveals what created Antarctica’s bizarre ‘ice cubes’ | Science | News

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Ted Scambos, the lead scientist for the National Snow and Ice Data Centre, has analysed an award winning photo entitled “Icy Sugar Cubes” that reveals the frozen land’s secrets.

He said: “A massive slab of flowing ice begins to go afloat.

“Initially, because it is very thick, it spreads laterally side to side, creating deep along-flow troughs.

“Later, with further flow, the ice begins to stretch out longitudinally, and the surface snow breaks perpendicular to the first troughs.

“Note that the troughs that run more perpendicular to the aircraft are a bit older, more full of snow — I would guess that they are parallel to the flow direction.”

The picture displays blocks of ice in the region that were previously seen as solid at first glance – the new discovery reveals the huge slabs are actually constantly moving.

The ice flows, bumps and grinds against each other that causes patterns to appear that can be seen in the photo that won the overall top prize in The Royal Society’s annual scientific photography competition this year.

The snap was initially taken in 1995 over the English-claimed coast on the southern Antarctic Peninsula using a Kodachrome 64 slide film.

Mr Scambos went on: “The sharper cuts to make the blocks, more in the direction of the plane’s flight, are younger, and mark a transition someplace just upstream to more extensional conditions.”

The glaciologist also explained that as ice spreads, cracks form that firstly appear parallel to the ice’s forward movement – this then creates horizontal crevasses.

Additional cracks appear perpendicular to the direction of the ice flow that completes the regular grid that can be seen, Mr Scambos added.

In the description of the photo, The Royal Society said the “unusual bi-directional crevassing” emerged “as an ice sheet…stretched in two directions over an underlying rise”.

The incredible discovery allows researchers to predict the movement of ice.

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