Deepest point on land discovered below glacier in East Antarctica

15 Décembre, 2019, 18:50 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • Antarctica The White Continent

Scientists have announced that the world's deepest land canyon has been discovered in Antarctica, deep beneath a glacier, stretching down nearly 2.2 miles below sea level. The canyon's depth is 3.5 kilometers below sea level, making it the lowest point on the planet not covered by liquid water.

Dr. Mathieu Morlighem, an associate professor in the Department of Earth System Science at the University of California at Irvine, is leading this project.

He added: 'It is larger than the US and Mexico mixed'. BedMachine is a new map of the Antarctic ice sheet that is believed to be of high precision.

'After months of investigation, we realised that it was not as a result of we had been lacking necessary processes. "It was because the bed topography under the ice was missing many important features such as troughs, ridges, valleys, etc", he said.

"The trenches in the oceans are deeper, but this is the deepest canyon on land", explained Dr Morlighem, lead author of the study.

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Scientists used to use several radar instruments to detect the undiscovered portions of the continent.

Applying the mapping technique they were able to discover a deep valley hidden underneath the ice sheet and said one surprise had been the ridges across the Transantarctic Mountains, Denman glacier.

Morlinghem added that local weather change might impression the area and mentioned scientists would now have to observe the area rigorously. "Ultimately, BedMachine Antarctica presents a mixed picture: Ice streams in some areas are relatively well-protected by their underlying ground features, while others on retrograde beds are shown to be more at risk from potential marine ice sheet instability". "Glaciers that flow on beds that deepen inland are unstable, and so the glacier will potentially have to retreat all the way until the bed rises again, leading to significant sea level rise". In the paper published today, Morlighem also suggests that the study of fast-flowing Antarctic ice sheets would benefit from soundings along flight tracks perpendicular to the flow direction, "especially upstream of the Academy and Support Force glaciers, along the Gould Coast near the Ross Ice Shelf, and along the Wilhelm II Coast between the Denman and Lambert glaciers". "These ridges were unknown and make this sector of the ice sheet extremely resilient to increase in ocean-induced melting".

Princeton University-led researchers have extracted 2 million-year-old ice cores from Antarctica - the oldest yet recovered - that provide the first direct observations of prehistoric atmospheric conditions and temperatures.

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