Scientists discover gigantic alp-like mountain range buried under Antarctic ice

February 25th, 2009 - 12:49 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Feb 25 (ANI): An international team of scientists has confirmed the existence of an European Alps-like mountain range in Antarctica, which is buried under more than four kilometers (2.5 miles) of ice.

The team has also created a detailed picture of the rugged landscape that is suspected to have caused the massive East Antarctic Ice Sheet to form.

Working cooperatively in some of the harshest conditions imaginable, all the while working in temperatures that averaged -30 degrees Celsius, our seven-nation team has produced detailed images of last unexplored mountain range on Earth, said Michael Studinger, of Columbia University’’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, the co-leader of the U.S. portion of the Antarcticas Gamburstev Province (AGAP) project.

As our two survey aircraft flew over the flat white ice sheet, the instrumentation revealed a remarkably rugged terrain with deeply etched valleys and very steep mountain peaks, he added.

According to geophysicist Fausto Ferraccioli, of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), who led the U.K. science team, the initial AGAP findings, while extremely exciting, also raise additional questions about the role of the Gamburtsevs in birthing the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, which extends over more than 10 million square kilometers atop the bedrock of Antarctica.

We now know that not only are the mountains the size of the European Alps but they also have similar peaks and valleys, he said. But this adds even more mystery about how the vast East Antarctic Ice Sheet formed, he added.

If the ice sheet grew slowly, then we would expect to see the mountains eroded into a plateau shape. But, the presence of peaks and valleys could suggest that the ice sheet formed quickly. Our big challenge now is to dive into the data to get a better understanding of what happened millions of years ago, he added.

The AGAP survey area covered roughly 2 million square kilometers of the ice sheet.

The AGAP data will help scientists to determine the origin of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet and the Gamburtsevs role in it.

It will also help them to understand the role the subglacial aquatic system plays in the dynamics of ice sheets, which will, in turn, help reduce scientific uncertainties in predictions of potential future sea level rise. (ANI)

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