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Arctic expeditions find giant mud waves, glacier tracks

Sonar image of the Arctic Ocean floor, showing parallel ridges carved by long-ago glaciers.

Credit: Image Courtesy of Ohio State University.


The Arctic

COLUMBUS , Ohio -- Scientists gathering evidence of ancient ice sheets uncovered a new mystery about what's happening on the Arctic sea floor today.

Sonar images revealed that, in some places, ocean currents have driven the mud along the Arctic Ocean bottom into piles, with some “mud waves” nearly 100 feet across.

Around the world, strong currents often create a wavy surface on the ocean bottom. But scientists previously thought the Arctic Ocean was too calm to do so.

Leonid Polyak, a research scientist at Byrd Polar Research Center at Ohio State University, said that it's too early to know how the waves formed.

“The mud waves could be caused by tidal fluctuations,” he said. “But that's really just speculation at this point.”

Polyak was one of the leaders of an international scientific expedition that crossed the Arctic Ocean in 2005, and he was part of a recent icebreaker expedition in 2007. Both missions took images of the ocean bottom with sonar and drew sediment cores from the ocean bottom.

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