Blood Falls gushes red water from Antarctica’s ice.  It took scientists 106 years to figure out what causes the color.

Blood Falls gushes red water from Antarctica’s ice. It took scientists 106 years to figure out what causes the color.

Blood Falls gushes red water from Antarctica’s ice. It took scientists 106 years to figure out what causes the color.

Blood Falls gushes red water from Antarctica’s ice.  It took scientists 106 years to figure out what causes the color.

Antarctica’s Blood Falls seeps from the end of Taylor Glacier into Lake Bonney on Nov. 26, 2006.National Science Foundation/Peter Rejcek

  • Blood falls is a waterfall of vibrant red water that seeps from Antarctica’s Taylor Glacier.

  • The unique color is due to iron salts that seep from the ice and turn red when exposed to oxygen.

  • The falls are home to microbes that can survive extreme conditionswithout light or oxygen.

A large glacier in Antarctica produces a bright red river seeping out of the ice, aptly named Blood Falls. Why the reddish water flows from Antarctica’s Taylor Glacier and into Lake Bonney has puzzled scientists for decades.

Blood falls in Antarctica leaking red water

The red falls are named for their unusual color.Mark Ralston/AP

The phenomenon was first discovered by geologist Griffith Taylor in 1911. At the time, he thought that red algae living in the water was responsible for the water’s striking red hue.

Glacier pouring out red water that looks like blood

A closer view shows salt water flowing out of the glacier.Peter West/NSF

sources: National Science Foundation, University of Alaska Fairbanks

More than a century later, scientists discovered what causes the bloody river: iron salts that seep from the ice and turn red when they contact the air.

Aerial view of Taylor Glacier

Blood Falls and the Taylor Glacier near McMurdo Station, Antarctica, on Friday, November 11, 2016.Mark Ralston/AP

In a 2017 study, scientists found that the Taylor Glacier formed about 2 million years ago and held a saltwater lake below it. Millions of years later, the ancient lake has reached the edge of the glacier and squeezed out the salty water.

Blood falls with orange-red water pouring out

The bright orange of Blood Falls is visible where Taylor Glacier meets Lake Bonney.Hassan Basagic/Getty Images

Source: Cambridge University Press

In a 2015 study, researchers found a network of rivers flowing through cracks in the glacier using ice-penetrating radar. That means liquid water can exist in an extremely cold glacier.

satellite image of Blood Falls

Image of Blood Falls taken by NASA’s Terra satellite.Jesse Allen/NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS/USA/Japan ASTER Science Team

Source: Nature communication

“While it sounds counterintuitive, water gives off heat when it freezes, and that heat warms the surrounding colder ice,” said Erin Pettit, a glaciologist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and co-author of the 2017 study. press release. “The heat and lower freezing temperature of salt water allow fluid movement. Taylor Glacier is now the coldest known glacier with sustained flowing water.”

Glaciologists collect data near the glacier

Above, researchers are collecting radar data on the Taylor Glacier off Blood Falls.Erin Klein

Source: University of Alaska Fairbanks

In a 2009 study, researchers found that the underwater lake is home to unique inhabitants: a community of microbes that can survive extreme conditions, without light or oxygen. Instead, they use iron and sulfate to survive.

diagram of microbes at Blood Falls

A cross-section of Blood Falls showing how microbial communities survive.Zina Deretsky / NSF

Source: Science

Researchers believe the lake trapped under the glacier millions of years ago was full of microbes.

Orange and red water flowing from the glacier

Blood Fall is named for its fiery red hue.Erin Klein

“One of the big questions here is ‘how does an ecosystem function under glaciers?’, ‘How can they persist under hundreds of feet of ice and live in permanently cold and dark conditions for extended periods of time, in the case of Blood Falls, over millions of years?” Jill Mikucki, a microbiologist and lead author of the study, said in a news release.

Blood Falls, a lake and mountains

Blood Falls overlooking Lake Bonney.Peter West/NSF

Source: National Science Foundation

Scientists believe that studying these microbes will be a boon to astrobiology. They could shed light on how life might survive in other worlds with similar frozen bodies of water, such as Earth’s neighbor – Mars.

The Arctic ice cap of Mars

Mars has two polar ice caps. Above is the one at the north pole of the planet.NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems

sources: Cambridge University Press, Nature communication

Read the original article Business Insider



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