Cracking The Ice

Antarctica is a vast, frozen mystery. Is it thawing, threatening coastal cities? Or is it, in fact, freezing? What scientists have learned

The helicopter heads out over McMurdo Sound, crossing a monotonous expanse of sea ice broken only by a smattering of icebergs and occasional clusters of Weddell seals. At last, off to one side, you see it: the Ross Ice Shelf, a mesmerizing expanse of white that stretches to the horizon and beyond. Wreathed in ice fog, the ice shelf takes on the haziness of a mirage. Yet it is all too substantial. Its surface ripples with undulating pressure ridges and solid, wind-hewn waves called sastrugi that move with the ice as it flows inexorably toward the sea.

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