Researchers have uncovered a previously unknown terrain that has been preserved beneath the Antarctic ice for an extensive period.
Researchers have uncovered an extensive, concealed terrain of elevated and depressed areas formed by past rivers, preserved under the Antarctic ice for millions of years.
The researchers from Britain and America have cautioned that human-caused global warming could potentially endanger this untouched landscape, which is larger than Belgium and has remained unchanged for over 34 million years.
“It is a previously unexplored terrain – nobody has seen it before,” said Professor Stewart Jamieson, a glaciologist from Durham University and the primary author of the research.
The region, spanning 12,000 square miles (32,000 square kilometers), used to be inhabited by trees, forests, and possibly wildlife.
However, the ice appeared and it was described as being “frozen in time”, according to Jamieson.
The researcher stated that what is particularly intriguing is that the information has been in clear view all along. He stressed that the team did not utilize new data, but instead employed a different method.
According to Jamieson, the terrain beneath the eastern portion of the Antarctic ice sheet is not as familiar as the landscape of Mars.
One method for viewing what lies beneath is to have a plane flying above send radio waves into the ice and then analyze the resulting echoes. This technique is known as radio-echo sounding.
However, this would present a significant obstacle if applied to the entire continent, considering that Antarctica is larger than Europe.
According to Jamieson, the scientists utilized pre-existing satellite pictures of the terrain to map out the deep valleys and ridges that lie over 1.6 miles beneath the surface.
The rolling icy terrain is a faint mirage that smoothly covers these more pointed characteristics, as stated by the speaker.
When combined with radio-echo sounding data, an image emerged of a river-carved landscape of plunging valleys and sharply peaked hills similar to some elsewhere on the Earth’s surface.
According to Jamieson, the view from the window of a lengthy flight was reminiscent of a mountainous area below, similar to Snowdonia in northern Wales.
The exact time when this secret world was last touched by sunlight is uncertain, but experts believe it has been at least 14 million years.
According to Jamieson, his intuition suggests that the last time it was visible was over 34 million years ago, during the initial freeze of Antarctica.
A group of scientists had previously discovered a lake the size of a city beneath the Antarctic ice, and they speculate that there are other historical terrains waiting to be unearthed.
The researchers stated that the newly found terrain could be at risk from global warming.
According to a publication in the journal Nature Communications, we are making progress towards creating atmospheric conditions that resemble those from 14 million to 34 million years ago. During this time, the temperature was 3 to 7 degrees Celsius warmer than it is currently.
Jamieson stressed that the terrain was located hundreds of kilometers away from the ice’s edge, meaning that any potential exposure would be quite a distance away.
The researcher mentioned that during previous periods of warming, such as the Pliocene era 3 million to 4.5 million years ago, the melting ice did not uncover the land, which provided some optimism.
He stated that it was unclear what would trigger a “runaway reaction” of melting.
A recent report was published one day after experts cautioned that the melting of the adjacent west Antarctic ice sheet is expected to greatly speed up in the next few decades, despite efforts to reduce global warming.