Fiber-optic cables like the ones that bring television and Internet into millions of homes are now being used to measure how fast ice shelves in Antarctica are melting, according to new research. 

Researchers installed moorings containing fiber-optic cables hundreds of meters down into the McMurdo Ice Shelf in West Antarctica to collect temperature information about the base of the ice shelf, where the thick platform of floating ice meets the ocean. The sensors were able to measure mere millimeters of ice loss at the interface, demonstrating that the new fiber-optic method could be used to remotely monitor the ice shelves in real-time. 

Data on the melting rates of ice shelves provides scientists with critical information on the stability of the Antarctic ice sheets and sea level rise.

GeoSpace spoke with Scott Tyler, a hydrologist at the University of Nevada, Reno and the study’s principal investigator, about the new research that has been accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

Click here to read the Q & A.

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