The West and East Antarctic Ice Sheets have been linked by unmapped and unseen valleys.
Scientists describe them as…
These mountain ranges have been hidden deep under the ice until a recent survey mission on May 4th described them in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. They are in the middle of the two major regions. The longest one is named Foundation Trough and is 350 km/217 miles long and 35 km/22 miles wide. The second one is called Patuxent and has half of Foundation Trough’s width, being a bit shorter. The third one is named Offset Rift Basin and is 35 km/22 miles wide but is half Foundation Trough’s length. They provide a “road” for the ice to flow from the major East Antarctic Ice Sheet to the smaller West Antarctic Ice Sheet.
How did they discover them?
Between 2015 and 2017, an international team used planes with sensitive instruments for mapping Antarctica and creating ice maps. Unfortunately, the two major ice-mapping satellites that are orbiting Earth can’t survey this area properly due to the inclination of their orbits, so they had to use something else.
Is this discovery helpful?
Kate Winter, the lead study author and a researcher at Northumbria University in England, has stated that the retreat or thinning of the ice sheet could be facilitated by these valleys by enhancing the ice flow. However, this would increase the rate and speed at which ice moves and could divide the two major ice sheets. Moreover, it would push the ice to Antarctica’s edges, raising the global sea levels.
Thus, it offers a means of finding out how climate changes in Antarctica and of further researching the evolution of the West and East Antarctic Ice Sheets. Scientists have already observed how the west sheet could possibly collapse in the ocean and create a problem globally.
Brad is a former Senior Fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University, is an award-winning travel, culture, and parenting writer. His writing has appeared in many of the Canada’s most respected and credible publications, including the Toronto Star, CBC News and on the cover of Smithsonian Magazine. A meticulous researcher who’s not afraid to be controversial, he is nationally known as a journalist who opens people’s eyes to the realities behind accepted practices in the care of children. Brad is a contributing journalist to Advocator.ca