Glacier
(Photo credit: Gary Bembridge / Flickr)

As the climate warms, glaciers are melting – noisily.

“It sounds like bacon frying,” says Grant Deane of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. “And you can hear it bubbling and cracking and popping as it melts.”

Deane’s team has been working in Svalbard, an archipelago north of Norway, to record the sounds of glaciers melting. He says those sounds contain a lot of information that can help scientists monitor the effects of global warming on glaciers.

Svalbard glacierHearing the under-sea whispers of a warming climate

For example, glacial ice contains tiny air bubbles that burst when the ice melts. So researchers are analyzing the sounds of those popping bubbles to see how they correspond to the speed of glacial melt.

And they’re developing methods of distinguishing the sounds of glaciers melting from nearby icebergs melting.

Deane says other tools for remotely monitoring ice melt, such as satellites and radar, are expensive. So he says listening to glaciers could prove a relatively simple and affordable way to track how they’re changing as the climate warms.

“The glaciers are talking to us,” he says. “It’s their own particular kind of language. We need to decipher it … to understand the future of the glaciers.”

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Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.

Topics: Snow & Ice