Thursday, February 26, 2009

Antarctica's mountain peaks

What the Russian scientists had discovered 50 years ago has now been mapped by teams of experts from Australia, Britain, Canada, China, Japan, Germany, and the US.

Yes, the first detailed maps of the Gamburtsev subglacial mountain in the East Antarctica are now available. These maps do confirm these mountains as similar to the Alps in Europe with high peaks and valleys. Dr. Fausto Ferraccioli from the British Survey Team notes interesting findings. The team feels that the peaks might have formed quickly burying Antarctic landscape up to four kilometers.

This team also discovered water under the Antarctic ice by flying 120,000 km by two survey aircraft. Rugged terrain with deeply etched valleys and peaks were also traced by them. These mountains and peaks are the size of the Alps in Europe.

The team used two survey aircraft fitted with special sensors and spent six weeks under minus 30C temperature to get an exciting 3D picture of these peaks. Some of these peaks are as tall as Mont Blanc. They hope to get more information about climate change from these studies on the Gamburtsev range in East Antarctica.

The Antarctica, which is covered with ice for more than 35 million years is bigger than America. The ice in Antarctica is capable of raising world sea levels by 57 meters if at all it melted. Imagine the damage if even a fraction of this ice melts due to global warming.

The data collected by the survey team seems to suggest the presence of vast aquatic system of lakes and rivers under the Antarctic ice sheets. Just as mountain ranges are formed due to collision between continents, the Antarctica too undergone such force about 500 million years ago while the Alps are much, much younger at 50 or 60 million years or so!

Source: Times of India, February 26, 2009
Image: Google

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