Global warming may unveil a million-year-old river landscape under East Antarctic Ice Sheet, per recent study.
Ancient landscape, unaffected by major ice retreat, might change with projected climate warming, per Tuesday’s Nature Communications.
Recently, scientists found a vast river-carved landscape in Antarctica’s Aurora-Schmidt basins, inland of the Denman and Totten glaciers. River ran 34-60 million years ago, as continents split from Antarctica, says Jamieson.
Using satellites and ice-penetrating radar, scientists discovered a landscape buried under the ice shelf for 14 to 34 million years.
Before this technique, researchers used radar-equipped planes to study the landscape under the ice sheet. However, due to limitations in flight paths, there were significant gaps in data coverage, explained Jamieson.
As Antarctica began to cool slightly, small glaciers grew in the river valleys, Jamieson said.
A cooling event led to the expansion of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, covering the continent and burying the river landscape, Jamieson explained
Jamieson likened it to turning on a freezer, which effectively preserves the landscape in time.
The Gondwana breakup created valleys between the upland blocks before they were glaciated, according to the researchers.
Climate warming could cause ice to retreat in this region for the first time in at least 14 million years, as per the study.
Western Antarctica, notably the “Doomsday Glacier,” has seen the most melting, potentially raising sea levels by 10 feet. In contrast, the east Antarctic ice shelf holds enough ice to cause nearly 200 feet of sea level rise, as per the study.
Even with the most ambitious efforts, preventing significant melting in West Antarctica may be too late, as per a recent study.