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Alison Snyder Apr 20, 2017
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There's a lot more water in Antarctica than we thought

Robert Fletcher / AP

The first-ever survey of melting water on the entire continent of Antarctica has revealed an extensive network of about 700 lakes and streams on top of ice shelves. A second study published in the journal Nature described a river draining meltwater, mitigating the risk of the moving water collapsing the ice into the ocean.

The big questions: How much can the rivers buffer the effects of warming and prevent the ice shelves from collapsing? Or will the Antarctic rivers carve to the bottom of the continent and move melting ice into the ocean like what is happening in Greenland?

Why it matters: Scientists knew rising seawater temperatures were melting the underside of ice shelves. But they hadn't been considering what was happening on the surface because they didn't know the extent of the water there. The discovery will affect models of global sea level rise in response to climate change.