Scientists noticed between 2006 and 2008 that the ice sheet on top of Cook lake was subsiding. Over two years, the ice sank by 70 feet to form a deep crater. This suggested to scientists that Cook lake was losing water.
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The scientists used data from two Earth observing satellites to determine the geometry of the crater and calculate the volume of the space caused by the subsidence. They assumed the volume would be equal to the amount of water lost by the lake.
Their calculations showed that the lake had lost between 1.2 trillion and 1.7 trillion gallons of water. That would have been a massive flood, causing a rapid flow of water to the ocean.
If the higher estimate of the flood size were true, the flow rate of the resulting ‘river' would have been 42,000 gallons (160 cubic meters) per second. That is close to the flow rate of the Colorado River.
Photo: Antarctic sea ice. (NASA/Thorsten Markus)