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 eastern Antarctic from flowing through the West Antarctic and to the coast. But as ice sheets become 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," said Kate Winter. Principal author of the study and research study at Northumbria University
"Understanding how the East and West Antarctic Ice Shields interact is fundamental to our understanding of past, present and future global sea levels," said Neil Ross, lecturer at Newcastle University
The largest of the valleys, called Foundation Trough, is almost 350 kilometers long, almost equal to the distance between Washington, the District of Columbia and New York City. Its width is more than 30 km, longer than the island of Manhattan.
The other valley, called Patuxent Trough, is about 320 km long and almost 15 km wide. The smallest, the Rift Basin offset, is 150 km long and almost 30 km 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 this month in the Geophysical Research Letters journal.
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." 19659002] "These new PolarGAP data provide us with insight into how the ice landscape affects the current ice flow, as well as a better understanding of how the parts of the great Antarctic ice sheets near the South Pole can develop, not glaciological ones Change around their edges, "said Ferraccioli.
The discovery was a surprise to researchers.
Winter told NBC News that they had expected to find a mountainous r 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  Last month, a new satellite survey revealed that 10 percent of Antarctic coastal glaciers move at a considerable speed back toward the center of the continent as they melt down, reports Chris Mooney of the Washington Post , In the West Antarctic, more than 20 percent of coastal glaciers retreated faster than 25 meters per year. In the East Antarctic, the situation is not so bad, although the largest glacier in the area is rapidly retreating.