Antarctic researchers have found vast bodies of water underneath one of the continents's biggest glaciers, giving crucial insight into the possible outcomes of global climate change, the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) has reveled.
Measuring 30 km wide and up to 2 km thick, the Totten Glacier catchment is the largest in East Antarctica and has the potential to raise sea levels by up to 7 metres.
Seismic instruments were used to discover what lies below the mass of ice, detonating contained explosions around two metres below the surface and measuring the echo.
"This research is critical in helping us predict how the melting of Antarctic glaciers will change the world's oceans into the future," AAD glaciologist Dr Ben Galton-Fenzi explained.
The speed at which the glacier will shift, and therefore melt into the ocean, is determined partially by what material it sits on top off.
"If there's bedrock under the glacier, it's sticky and will move more slowly, but if there's water or soft sediments, the glacier will move faster," Galton-Fenzi said.
"This study has shown us for the first time that there are substantial amounts of water contained in subglacial lakes, not far from the ocean, that we know very little about."