Hundreds of kilometers of mountain ranges and valleys have dug deep beneath the vast West Antarctic ice region, a discovery that scientists say could contribute to global sea-level rise.
A team of British researchers used "ice penetration radar" to map the subglacial landscape, which they say contains an important piece of evidence to understand the past, present, and future behavior of the frozen continent. The researchers discovered three valleys that connect the two main parts of the Antarctic: the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and the much larger East Antarctic Ice Sheet.
The newly discovered landforms prevent ice from the East Antarctic from flowing through the West Antarctic and to the coast. But as the ice sheet gets thinner due to warming temperatures, these valleys and mountain ranges could "increase the speed and speed with which ice flows from the center of the Antarctic to its edges, causing global sea level rise." Kate Winter, lead author
"Understanding the interaction of the East and West Antarctic Ice Shields is fundamental to our understanding of past, present and future global sea levels," said Neil Ross, a lecturer at Newcastle University [19659005ThelargestofthevalleyscalledFoundationTroughis217mileslongalmostequaltothedistancebetweenWashingtonDCandNewYorkCityItswidthismorethan20mileslongerthantheislandofManhattan
The other valley, called Patuxent Trough, is nearly 200 miles long and 9 miles wide. The smallest, the Rift Basin offset, is 93 miles long and 18 miles wide.
The research was part of the European Space Agency's PolarGAP project, an ambitious mission to gather data on Earth's global gravitational field, and was previously published. ..1 / index.html […] Scientist Fausto Ferraccioli, Principal Investigator of the PolarGAP project, said the results provide a significant window into the South Pole region, "one of the least understood borders in the entire Antarctic.  "This new PolarGAP data provides us with insight into how the landscape under the ice influences the current ice flow, as well as a better understanding of how the parts of the great Antarctic ice sheets at the South Pole can evolve in response to glaciological changes and can not change on their edges, "said Ferraccioli.
The discovery was a surprise to researchers.
Winter told NBC News that they had expected a mountainous rain. Research has shown that the Antarctic coastal glaciers, particularly in the West Antarctic, are retreating at an alarming rate, raising concerns about the potential contribution of the massive continent to the rise of the Sea level.  Last month, a new satellite survey found that 10 percent of Antarctic coastal glaciers move at a significant speed back towards the center of the continent as they melt beneath it, reports Chris Mooney of the Washington Post. In West Antarctica, more than 20 percent of coastal glaciers retreated faster than 25 meters or 82 feet per year. In the East Antarctic, the situation is not so bad, although the largest glacier in the area is rapidly retreating.
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