Recent Discovery of Hidden Canyons in Antarctica Is Bad News for the Rest of the Planet

Researchers studying Antarctica haven’t come up with good news for a while, and it seems that this is the place where they discover the most worrisome things about our planet.

An international team of researchers from UK, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Norway just saw three canyons under the ice of Antarctica, hidden deep under the hundreds of feet of ice.

Their findings have been published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. There, they wrote where the canyons are and how they have subterranean grooves which channelize the flow of ice into the sea as the East and West Antarctic Ice Sheets come together.

Scientists Never Knew These Canyons Existed Before

Dr. Kate Winter is the lead author of the study and a researcher at Northumbria University in the UK. She explains why their findings are vital to climate predictions:

“These troughs channelize ice from the center of the continent, taking it towards the coast. [If] climate conditions change in Antarctica, we might expect the ice in these troughs to flow a lot faster towards the sea. That makes them really important, and we simply didn’t know they existed before now.”

As the planet keeps on getting warmer, the ice sheets in Antarctica will get thinner. It will also accelerate the flow of ice through the newly discovered grooves. The disintegration of the ice-sheet will increase and rise the sea level.

Out of the three canyons, the largest one – named Foundation Trough, is over 217 miles (350 kilometers) long and 22 miles wide.

A Better Understanding of the South Pole

The paper is one of the first observations at the European Space Agency’s project called PolarGAP. This project uses planes equipped with a radar over the places where satellites cannot see, and it gathers data.

The lead investigator of the PolarGAP project, Dr. Fausto Ferraccioli explains:

“Remarkably, the South Pole region is one of the least understood frontiers in the whole of Antarctica. Our new aerogeophysical data will… enable new research into the geological processes that created the mountains and basins before the Antarctic ice sheet itself was born.”

Researchers theorize that the newly discovered canyons under the ice sheet have formed in a previous glacial period. Back then, there was a different configuration of ice over the continent.

Rex Austin

Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere