A potential hidden layer of meteorites below the ice surface of Antarctica

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • External authors:
  • Geoffrey Evatt
  • M. J. Coughlan
  • David Abrahams


Antarctica contains some of the most productive regions on Earth for collecting meteorites. These small areas of glacial ice are known as meteorite stranding zones, where upward-flowing ice combines with high ablation rates to concentrate large numbers of englacially transported meteorites onto their surface. However, meteorite collection data shows that iron and stony-iron meteorites are significantly under-represented from these regions as compared with all other sites on Earth. Here we explain how this discrepancy may be due to englacial solar warming, whereby meteorites a few tens of centimetres below the ice surface can be warmed up enough to cause melting of their surrounding ice and sink downwards. We show that meteorites with a high-enough thermal conductivity (for example, iron meteorites) can sink at a rate sufficient to offset the total annual upward ice transport, which may therefore permanently trap them below the ice surface and explain their absence from collection data.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Article number10679
JournalNature Communications
StatePublished - 16 Feb 2016