Antarctica’s hidden mountains revealed- msnbc.com
The mystery of how a subglacial mountain range the size of the Alps formed up to 250 million years ago has finally been solved, and that could help scientists map the effects of climate change.
The Gamburtsev subglacial mountains are buried 2 miles (3 kilometers) below the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, the largest remaining body of ice on the planet.
Experts are trying to learn more about the frozen continent, as even a small thaw could swamp low-lying coastal areas and cities. Antarctica contains enough ice to raise world sea levels by about 187 feet (57 meters) if all of it ever melted.
Discovered in 1958, the mountains’ origin has largely been an enigma until now.
Around 34 million years ago, there was an abrupt decline in levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which prompted the glaciation of Antarctica. The process began over the Gamburtsev Mountains, said Fausto Ferraccioli, lead author of the report and geophysicist at the British Antarctic Survey.
On top of the mountain range, there is a strong possibility of finding the oldest ice on the planet, which could be 1.2 million years old or more, he said. Until now, scientists have been able to study ice going back only 800,000 years.
Based on radar, gravity and magnetic data, scientists from seven countries found a tectonic process called rifting was the trigger that lifted up the Gamburtsev mountains.