Researchers have discovered mountain ranges and three huge, deep subglacial valleys hidden beneath the Antarctica ice. The findings are the first from the extensive ice-penetrating radar data collected in Antarctica, as a part of the European Space Agency PolarGAP project. They were published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
1. The data reveals the topography, which controls how quickly ice flows between the East and West Antarctic ice sheets.
2. The discovery could be significant, as the valleys help to channel the flow of ice from the centre of the continent towards the coast.
3. The team, led by researchers from Northumbria University in the UK, mapped the three vast, subglacial valleys in West Antarctica for the first-ever time.
4. In case, climate change causes the ice sheet to thin, the valleys could increase the speed at which ice flows from the centre of Antarctica to the sea, raising global sea levels.
With the discovery, the researchers understood that the newly-discovered mountainous region was what that was preventing ice from East Antarctica flowing through West Antarctica to the coast. The new data will also enable new research into the geological processes that created the mountains and basins before the Antarctic ice sheet itself was born. The finding also helped the researchers understand how the East Antarctic Ice Sheet may have responded to past climate change and how it may do so in the future.