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What Do Glaciers Say When They Sing?

Glaciers make some curious sounds

(Jeff Vanuga/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

Glaciers may seem like frigid, stoic features, but they're actually incredibly active: growing, shrinking, cracking and shedding chunks in calving events that can release the energy of a small earthquake. Using seismic sensor that were built to listen to the Earth's rumbles, scientists can sometimes hear glaciers' motions, too.

In a new study, researchers report how these sensors can pick up even some small internal processes—a crack of the ice deep within the glacier's mass, and the sound of water flowing through it. Sped up to a frequency audible to the human ear, the seismic song of a glacier sounds like a cross between a babbling stream, a burst of gas and a nest of insects.

According to Climate Central, the humming music of a glacier could even prove to be a useful warning sign some day. Different pitches of sound can indicate changing conditions within the glacier, says Climate Central. With a lot of future work, such a change in tune could be used to track a glacier's internal cracks, which, in the past, have been known to widen and send flood waters flowing out.

About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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