The Missing Meteorites of Antarctica

17 June 2016

The vast majority of the World's documented meteorite specimens have been collected from Antarctica. This is due to Antarctica’s ice dynamics, which allows for the significant concentration of meteorites onto ice surfaces known as Meteorite Stranding Zones. However, meteorite collection data shows a significant anomaly exists: the proportion of iron-based meteorites are under-represented compared to those found in the rest of the World. Here I explain that englacial solar warming provides a plausible explanation for this shortfall: as meteorites are transported up towards the surface of the ice they become exposed to increasing amounts of solar radiation, meaning it is possible for meteorites with a high-enough thermal conductivity (such as iron) to reach a depth at which they melt their underlying ice and sink back downwards, offsetting the upwards transportation. An enticing consequence of this mechanism is that a sparse layer of  meteorites lies just beneath the surface of these Meteorite Stranding Zones...

  • Mathematical Geoscience Seminar