In 2010, a powerful magnitude-8.8 earthquake struck off the coast of central Chile, rocking much of the country and producing tremor as far away as Argentina and Peru. But a new study suggests its effects were felt even farther away—in Antarctica. In the wake of the Maule temblor, the scientists found, several seismic stations on the frozen continent registered “ice quakes,” probably due to fracturing of the ice as the planet’s crust shook.
Earthquakes are already known to affect Antarctica’s ice shelves, thanks to the tsunamis they can spawn. Tsunami waves can propagate for great distances across the ocean; if the waves reach Antarctica’s ice shelves – the floating platforms of ice surrounding the continent—they can push and pull on the ice, promoting fractures and ultimately helping large chunks of ice break off, or calve.