Incredible mountain ranges have been discovered beneath the ice of Antarctica. Image: Compfight

A discovery has been made in the Western region of Antarctica: deep beneath the region, there are mountain ranges and valleys that happen to be hundreds of miles long. The discovery was mapped by a team of British researchers who used “ice penetrating radars” in order to map the recently discovered larger-than-Manhattan valley.

The findings serve as evidence to further understand the past of the continent and it will also prove useful to forecast its future. Also, these newly discovered valleys are linked to the ongoing crisis of the global sea level rise and also have a heavy influence on it.

There are three valleys beneath the icy surface of Antarctica, and these valleys link two major parts of the ice sheet of the continent. There is the bigger Eastern Antarctic Ice Sheet and the Western Antarctic Ice sheet. Both of these lands have a critical function on Earth, to prevent the ice from the east side of the continent from flowing through the west and into the coast.

Size of the Valleys

The discovered mountain ranges are literally huge regarding size, the biggest of them is called the Foundation Trough and it is 217 miles long, nearly equal to the distance between Washington, District of Columbia, and New York City. While the smallest one, the Offset Rift Basin, is only 93 miles long and 18 miles wide. The second largest of the valleys is called Patuxent Trough, is nearly 200 miles long and 9 miles wide.

Raising warnings and importance

According to Kate Winters, the study’s lead author revealed that there is an increasing danger since the ice is getting thinner due to increasing temperatures. Winters warned that this could cause an “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.”

This is particularly problematic, since it has been forecasted that the sea level would be between 52 and 98 centimeters by 2100, but it has been reported that this increase has accelerated.

This, on the other hand, provides scientists with a significant piece of knowledge to gain a deeper understanding of the South Pole region, which happens to be one of the least understood.

Fausto Ferraccioli, principal investigator of the PolarGAP project, said about the findings “These new PolarGAP data gives us both insights into how the landscape beneath the ice influences present ice flow, and a better understanding of how the parts of the great Antarctic ice sheets near the South Pole can, and cannot, evolve in response to glaciological change around their margins.”

Source: National Post