Antarctica: scientists discover mountain ranges and vast valleys

Mountain ranges and valleys hundreds of kilometers long have been installed in the depths of the vast ice region of western Antarctica, a discovery that scientists say could contribute to sea level rise.

A team of British researchers used "ice penetration radar" to map the subglacial landscape, which they say adds a key piece of evidence to understand the past, present and future behavior of the frozen continent. The researchers discovered three valleys that link the two main parts of Antarctica: the western Antarctic ice sheet and the larger eastern Antarctic ice sheet.

The newly discovered landforms prevent the ice of eastern Antarctica from flowing through western Antarctica and towards the coast. But because the ice sheets are thin due to temperatures, these valleys and ridges could "increase the speed and speed at which ice flows from the center of Antarctica to its edges, leading to an increase in the levels del mar ", Kate Winter, lead author of the study and researcher at Northumbria University.

[One of the most worrisome predictions about climate change may be coming true]

"Understanding how the ice caps of eastern and western Antarctica interact is critical to our understanding of past, present and future global sea levels," said Neil Ross, a Professor at the University of Newcastle.

The largest of the valleys, called Foundation Trough, is 217 miles long, almost equal to the distance between Washington, DC and New York City. Its width is more than 20 miles, longer than the island of Manhattan.

The other valley, called Patuxent Trough, is almost 200 miles long and 9 miles wide. The smallest, the Desfiladero Basin, is 93 miles long and 18 miles wide.

The research was part of the PolarGAP project of the European Space Agency, an ambitious mission to collect data on the global gravitational field of the Earth, and was published earlier in the month in the journal Geophysical Research Letters

Fausto Ferraccioli, The principal investigator of the PolarGAP project, said the findings provide a significant window into the South Pole region, "one of the least understood borders in all of Antarctica." [19659009] "These new PolarGAP data give us information on how the landscape under the ice influences the flow of ice and a better understanding of how parts of the large Antarctic ice sheets near the South Pole can evolve in response to glaciological change around your margins, "said Ferraccioli.

The discovery came as a surprise to researchers.

Winter told NBC News that they expected to find a mountainous record. Research has shown that the coastal glaciers of Antarctica, particularly in West Antarctica, are retreating at an alarming rate, raising concerns about the possible contribution of the mbadive continent to sea level rise.

] Last month, a new satellite survey revealed that 10 percent of coastal glaciers in Antarctica are moving at a significant rate toward the center of the continent as they melt down, reported Chris Mooney of The Washington Post In Western Antarctica, more than 20 percent of coastal glaciers retreated faster than 25 meters, or 82 feet, per year. The situation is not so bad in East Antarctica, although the largest glacier in the area is also retreating at an accelerated pace.

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