Mystery of Antarctica's 'Blood Falls' solved
By T.K. Randall
April 26, 2017 · 8 comments
Antarctica's 'blood falls'. Image Credit: National Science Foundation / Peter Rejcek
Researchers have made a new discovery in relation to one of Antarctica's most unusual natural features.
First discovered back in 1911, the disconcerting blood-red color of Antarctica's aptly named 'Blood Falls' has remained a topic of scientific intrigue and debate for years.
Originally believed to be the result of red algae, the strange coloration was later found to be due to iron-rich brine in the water which turns red when it makes contact with the air.
Now following a new study by researchers from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Colorado College, evidence has been found of an extensive salt water source beneath the Taylor Glacier which could explain where this briny water is actually coming from.
To find it, the team used a special type of radar to track the flow of water in to the falls.
"While it sounds counterintuitive, water releases heat as it freezes, and that heat warms the surrounding colder ice," said UAF glaciologist Erin Pettit.
"The heat and the lower freezing temperature of salty water make liquid movement possible. Taylor Glacier is now the coldest known glacier to have persistently flowing water."
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