Cachoeira de sangue’ na Antártida


Queda d’água ‘enferrujada’ vem de um reservatório de água líquida salgada, formado há mais de 1 milhão de anos, localizado abaixo da Geleira de Taylor

Cientistas americanos descobriram que a origem da ‘Cachoeira de Sangue’ que escorre pela Geleira de Taylor, no sudoeste da Antártida, é um reservatório de água líquida, super-salgado e muito antigo, que está embaixo da geleira. Desde que foi descrita, em 1911, a queda d’água de coloração avermelhada, resultado da oxidação do ferro presente em sua composição, tem intrigado cientistas de todo o mundo por se manter em estado líquido, mesmo nas gélidas temperaturas do polo sul. Agora, com o mapeamento do fluxo da água, os geólogos identificaram que ela se formou há mais um milhão de anos, conserva-se em estado líquido dentro da geleira e flui por uma série de canais subterrâneos até chegar à superfície.

“A geleira de Taylor passa a ser a mais fria a ter água persistentemente fluindo”, disse em comunicado a pesquisadora Erin Pettit, da Universidade de Alaska Fairbanks, nos Estados Unidos, uma das autoras do estudo publicado nesta nesta semana no periódico científico Journal of Glaciology.

Descoberta pelo geocientista inglês Thomas Griffith Taylor há mais de um século, a queda d’água teve sua coloração avermelhada atribuída, a princípio, a algas. No entanto, ao analisar sua composição, os pesquisadores descobriram que se tratava de oxidação, já que a água era rica em ferro que, ao entrar em contato com o oxigênio do ar, ‘enferruja’. Os pesquisadores descobriram também, em 2009, que o local abriga um complexo ecossistema composto por microrganismos que se alimentam unicamente de ferro e enxofre. Mas, até hoje, a fonte da água líquida da cachoeira ainda não havia sido determinada.

Fonte d’água

Para mapear a origem da água, geólogas americanas utilizaram um radar, cujas ondas penetram o gelo, como um geolocalizador. Como resultado, elas identificaram grandes quantidades de água salgada presa há mais de um milhão de anos abaixo da geleira. E é justamente a grande quantidade de sal na água, mais de 13%, que a deixa líquida em baixas temperaturas, pois o sal abaixa o ponto de congelamento da água. De acordo com os cientistas, o ponto de congelamento da água ali está em torno de -7 graus Celsius.

“Embora pareça estranho, a água libera o calor à medida que congela, e esse calor aquece o gelo ao redor”, explica Erin.

Líquida, a água escorre por uma série de canais sob o gelo, até desembocar na superfície. As geólogas acreditam que, além da Geleira de Taylor, outras parecidas possam conter grandes quantidades de água líquida dentro de massas de gelo, e funcionarem de maneira semelhante.


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