Researchers have discovered mountain ranges and valleys hundreds of miles long hidden deep beneath the ice near the South Pole in western Antarctica. Scientists discovered these formations using airborne radar and satellite data during an aerial survey of the polar region.
Scientists found three huge, deep valleys linking two major ice regions: the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet and the far larger Eastern Antarctic Ice Sheet. Scientists were surprised at the discovery.
Kate Winter, the study’s lead author at Northumbria University in the U.K., said, “We expected to find mountainous subglacial topography, but the size of the troughs did come as a surprise because we had no indication that they were there.”
Scientists fear that the discovery could contribute even more to rising global sea levels
Global warming is already thinning the polar ice sheet. Now, scientists fear these valleys and mountain ranges could “increase the speed and rate at which ice flows out from the center of Antarctica to its edges, leading to an increase in global sea levels,” said Winter.
Fausto Ferraccioli, Head of Airborne Geophysics at British Antarctic Survey, said: “Our new aerogeophysical data will also enable new research into the geological processes that created the mountains and basins before the Antarctic ice sheet itself was born.”