Red, White and Blue: Antarctic Ice!

Jan 29, 2016
Blood Red Ice!
Peter Rejcek

Share: 

Rate this Post: 

Average: 4 (3 votes)

When you think of Red, White and Blue you normally think of the flag and the Fourth of July. If you are a scientist in Antarctica, however, you may be thinking about the latest studies on the red, white and blue of the world’s coldest continent.

Some of the ice in Antarctica is deep blue or turquoise. Source: Wikimedia by Andreas Tille

Most ice is clear or white. In Antarctica, however, an estimated 1% of the continent is covered with stretches of blue ice. Less beautiful (and much creepier), in the Taylor Glacier, the ice is red and the eerie Blood Falls gush into the seas. The mystery of these strange ice colors was solved in the last 2 months.

It turns out that blue ice is very old ice.  At least one stretch of Antarctic ice is over a million years old. New ice is full of air bubbles, which makes it look white. As years of snow and ice accumulation bury older layers of ice, pressure squeezes the air out. Without the bubbles, light can penetrate ice more deeply. To the human eye, ancient glacial ice acts like a filter, absorbing red and yellow light and reflecting blue light, creating the beautiful blue hues.

These Antarctic ices are some of the best areas in the world to find meteorites. Source: NASA

Not only are these icy areas ancient, they are some of the best areas in the world for finding meteorites that have pummeled the continent for thousands of years. The dark stones are easy to spot against the clear blue ice. More than 25,000 meteorites have been collected from blue-ice areas in Antarctica.

Yech. Some Antarctic ice is bloody red. Source: Wikimedia by Peter Rejcek

An eerier area of colored ice is Taylor Glacier, where the notorious blood falls flows with deep, bloody red water. Microbiologist Jill Mikucki tested a new airborne electromagnetic sensor that studies the ground to a depth of about 1,000 feet. It showed an ancient network of salty water filled with life. The water rusts the iron in the surrounding soil, producing the bizarre red water that gushes out where Taylor Glacier meets the ocean.

So as the Fourth of July draws near, remember—even the South Pole is wearing red, white and blue.

About This Blog

Are you a weather watcher? Welcome to "Weather Whispers" by James Garriss and until recently, Evelyn Browning Garriss. With expertise and humor, this column covers everything weather—from weather forecasts to WHY extreme weather happens to ways that weather affects your life from farming to your grocery bill. Enjoy weather facts, folklore, and fun!

With heavy hearts, we share the news that historical climatologist and immensely entertaining Almanac contributor Evelyn Browning Garriss passed away in late June 2017. Evelyn shared her lifetime of weather knowledge with Almanac editors and readers, explaining weather phenomena in conversation and expounding on topics in articles for the print edition of The Old Farmer’s Almanac as well as in these blog posts. We were honored to know and work with her as her time allowed, which is to say when she was not giving lectures to, writing articles for, and consulting with scientists, academia, investors, and government agencies around the world. She will be greatly missed by the Almanac staff and readers.

Reader Comments

Leave a Comment

Ice Millions of years old,

Ice Millions of years old, really?! No, Mt.St.Helens proved that wrong. As beautiful as it is the earth is at oldest 20k yrs in age.

scary beautiful

scary beautiful

Keep Your New Garden Growing

keepgardengrowingcover.jpgTop 10 Veggies.
Almanac Editors Tips- water, feed, pest control, harvest
 

 

You will also be subscribed to our Almanac Companion Newsletter

solar_array.jpg

Solar Energy Production Today

175.90 kWh

Live data from the solar array at The Old Farmer's Almanac offices in Dublin, NH.