World’s largest canyon could be hidden under Antarctic ice sheet

From DURHAM UNIVERSITY

antarctic-canyon

Figure 1. Bed elevation (a.s.l.—above sea level) and ice surface morphologies in Princess Elizabeth Land, Antarctica. A: Bedmap2 digital elevation model (Fretwell et al., 2013) illustrating the locations of direct measurements and highlighting the areas without direct measurements. Grounding line data are from Scambos et al. (2007). ICECAP—International Collaborative Exploration of the Cryosphere through Airborne Profiling program. B: Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) mosaic of Antarctica 2009 (Haran et al., 2014) showing north-south–trending linear features and an elongate and relatively featureless zone on the ice sheet surface (yellow box).

The world’s largest canyon may lie under the Antarctic ice sheet, according to analysis of satellite data by a team of scientists, led by Durham University.

Although the discovery needs to be confirmed by direct measurements, the previously unknown canyon system is thought to be over 1,000km long and in places as much as 1km deep, comparable in depth to the Grand Canyon in USA, but many times longer.

The canyon system is made up of a chain of winding and linear features buried under several kilometres of ice in one of the last unexplored regions of the Earth’s land surface: Princess Elizabeth Land (PEL) in East Antarctica. Very few measurements of the ice thickness have been carried out in this particular area of the Antarctic, which has led to scientists dubbing it one of Antarctica’s two ‘Poles of Ignorance’.

The researchers believe that the landscape beneath the ice sheet has probably been carved out by water and is either so ancient that it was there before the ice sheet grew or it was created by water flowing and eroding beneath the ice.

Although not visible to the naked eye, the subglacial landscape can be identified in the surface of the ice sheet.

Faint traces of the canyons were observed using satellite imagery and small sections of the canyons were then found using radio-echo sounding data, whereby radio waves are sent through the ice to map the shape of the rock beneath it. These are very large features which appear to reach from the interior of Princess Elizabeth Land to the coast around the Vestfold Hills and the West Ice Shelf.

The canyons may be connected to a previously undiscovered subglacial lake as the ice surface above the lake shares characteristics with those of large subglacial lakes previously identified. The data suggests the area of the lake could cover up to 1250km², more than 80 times as big as Lake Windermere in the English Lake District.

An airborne survey taking targeted radio-echo sounding measurements over the whole buried landscape is now underway with the aim of unambiguously confirming the existence and size of the canyon and lake system, with results due later in 2016.

Lead researcher, Dr Stewart Jamieson, from the Department of Geography at Durham University in the UK, said: “Our analysis provides the first evidence that a huge canyon and a possible lake are present beneath the ice in Princess Elizabeth Land. It’s astonishing to think that such large features could have avoided detection for so long.

“This is a region of the Earth that is bigger than the UK and yet we still know little about what lies beneath the ice. In fact, the bed of Antarctica is less well known than the surface of Mars. If we can gain better knowledge of the buried landscape we will be better equipped to understand how the ice sheet responds to changes in climate.”

Co-Author Dr Neil Ross from Newcastle University in the UK, said: “Antarctic scientists have long recognised that because the way ice flows, the landscape beneath the ice sheet was subtly reflected in the topography of the ice sheet surface. Despite this, these vast deep canyons and potential large lake had been overlooked entirely.

“Our identification of this landscape has only been possible through the recent acquisition, compilation and open availability of satellite data by many different organisations (e.g. NASA, ESA and the US National Snow and Ice Data Center), to whom we are very grateful, and because of some serendipitous reconnaissance radio-echo sounding data acquired over the canyons by the ICECAP project during past Antarctic field seasons.”

Co-Author Professor Martin Siegert, from the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London, UK, said: “Discovering a gigantic new chasm that dwarfs the Grand Canyon is a tantalising prospect. Geoscientists on Antarctica are carrying out experiments to confirm what we think we are seeing from the initial data, and we hope to announce our findings at a meeting of the ICECAP2 collaboration, at Imperial, later in 2016.

“Our international collaboration of US, UK, Indian, Australian and Chinese scientists are pushing back the frontiers of discovery on Antarctica like nowhere else on earth. But the stability of this understudied continent is threatened by global warming, so all the countries of the world now must rapidly reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and limit the damaging effects of climate change.”

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The research is published in Geology. Open access: http://geology.gsapubs.org/content/early/2015/12/22/G37220.1.full.pdf

55 thoughts on “World’s largest canyon could be hidden under Antarctic ice sheet

    • Antarctica like nowhere else on earth.
      But the stability of this understudied continent is threatened by global warming,

      so all the countries of the world now must rapidly reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and limit the damaging effects of climate change.”

      PROOF POSITIVE OF THE WARMIST GRANT = threatened by global warming
      Sell your soul for 10 shackles and ruin all the real research!!!!

      • But when the Antarctic ice shelf melts, just think of all the touristy & entrepreneurial ventures that will result. Oh, that’s right, such things are also anathema to the Left.

      • “But the stability of this understudied continent is threatened by global warming, so all the countries of the world now must rapidly reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and limit the damaging effects of climate change.”

        For the record Dr. Liar:

    • What does he mean by stability? And during what time frame? I imagine there will be no human species left by the time the ice has melted. I quote Cliff Ollier from Geoscientist,online (GSA, UK):
      “The stratified ice is of great age. In Greenland, several ice-cores have more than 3km of undisturbed ice which go back in time for over 105,000 years – far less than the Antarctic equivalent. The Vostok cores in Antarctica provide data for the past 414,000 years before the ice starts to deform by flow. Dome F core reached 3035 m and Dome C core 3309 m, both dating back to 720,000 years. The EPICA core in Antarctica goes back to 760,000 years, and retains complete records of deposition, although temperatures at times during that period have been higher than today. They do not fit a model of surface melting, either now or in the past. After three quarters of a million years of documented continuous accumulation, how can we believe that right now the world’s ice sheets are “collapsing”?
      https://www.geolsoc.org.uk/Geoscientist/Archive/March-2010/Glaciers-science-and-nonsense

    • Quite correct about the funds as Professor Martin Siegert is from the Grantham Institute at Imperial College . See http://www.granthamfoundation.org/about.html for details of the Grantham Foundation. You can even look up previous ‘letters’ by Jeremy Grantham, such as his 2011 one on “Days of Abundant Resources and Falling Prices Are Over Forever”. The plunge in prices of oil, iron ore, coal, copper etc. of course, is I suppose a mere illusion to him, along with global warming…

  1. I can’t see how Global Warming/Climate Change caused this. Surely no reputable journal could have published this study. /sarc

  2. “…the stability of this understudied continent is threatened by global warming…”

    Again, we see the implicit statement that our current climate is the only good climate to have. If by “stable” they mean” covered in ice that got there because the planet has been both warmer and colder than now”, sure.

  3. Since Greenland and Antarctic ice are all below sea level and surrounded by higher ground due to their weight bearing down on land, wouldn’t they leave huge lakes like the Caspian sea if they ever melt?

      • I doubt they will if they melt. It’s another liberal scare story trying to scare people who don’t understand geography.

    • The answer to your question is Yes. However, the Caspian Sea area was not glaciated during last ice advance and exists for other reasons.

  4. The last sentence means it has been approved and stamped by the climate priests for release. Unauthorized releases shall not pass. So sayeth the king.

  5. They need to not be so glum. If the ice were to melt they would be able to explore the “Largest Canyon in the WORLD!”

    They are never going to get anywhere being such a Negative Nancy.

      • The should hire the same Project Manager who dug Glacier Girl up under 300 feet of ice in Greenland to explore the Canyon. Nothing to it.

      • They didn’t exactly “Dig” it up.

        They made a hole and took it apart and brought the parts up out through that hole, and it wasn’t 300 feet. I think 164 feet or so.

        Still we get the point. Amazing they weren’t all squished down there. And that was 60 years of “partly cloudy” weather reports.

        g

  6. Melt the ice now.
    Treasures await.
    In the name of discovery,humanity we must launch giant mirrors to focus sunlight upon the Antarctic landmass.
    Only by melting the advancing ice sheets can we save “future” mankind.

    Damn alarmist spiel is easy.

    Real science and applied technology is amazing, wonder what we will see with the next generation of sensing equipment.
    That last paragraph deserves only one response, each knee bend to the orthodoxy of the authoritarian consensus, shall invoke Tiny Tim;The Ice Caps Are Melting.(Utube)
    Nothing parodies this nonsense quite as well.

  7. According to the Global Warming apocalypse believers the last remaining breeding pairs of humans will live there. So better to get it mapped out now and parceled out so as to provide the UN with a property tax stream ASAP.

    On the other hand, if the earth enters another full blown Ice Age then living under the ice in a giant continental igloo would once again make sense.

    So either way, map it out and divide it up so that it can be taxed. It’s true progressive progress. It’s the only way to save the human race! Act now before it’s too late!

  8. Climate change is a state-sponsored religion as shown in the wording of the science release. By keeping the relationship informal, it skirts around the ongoing enforcement of separation of church and state. In that regard it is similar to the Paris “agreement” and the Iran nuclear “agreement.”

  9. They constantly go on and on about GHG emissions which are not causing global warming.
    “But the stability of this understudied continent is threatened by global warming, so all the countries of the world now must rapidly reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and limit the damaging effects of climate change.”

  10. “…the stability of this understudied continent is threatened by global warming…”

    You mean that if we don’t stop producing CO2, Antarctica is going to fall apart?
    Or maybe they meant CO2 is going to cause Antarctica to capsize.

  11. I am not sure but I believe these pilots were putting a fuel depot out for this project, when one fell down a crevasse.
    pilot fell down crevasse in Antarctica

  12. So when they tell us that they know just how much Antarctic ice there is and how fast it is melting they are really only guessing because they don’t know exactly how thick it is?

  13. Couldn’t they have just gotten on with honest science? Real science? Real exploration?

    It was all quite interesting until the last bit. It won’t occur to them yet, nor for a while, that throwing in a belief of global warming will lose them popular support. It might gain them funding now, but it shows them up as dishonest and manipulating. That won’t help them any when the backlash comes.

    My respect for them dropped to zero on that last statement. It doesn’t matter how sound the rest of it is, nor how intriguing, I am no longer interested in what they say or what they find.

    It’s shocking to see teams of researchers (I’m sorry, I will not call them scientists) still scrambling to get on board the horrendous scam of global warming when the ship has a dirty great hole in it and all the rats are looking for exit points. I guess that’s because it’s a large ship and word hasn’t gotten around yet.

    Shame on these people.

  14. Sort of reminds me of the Nemaha Ridge – an entire mountain range that is buried underground.
    Can you really call it a ‘canyon’ if you can’t see it or explore it – even by RPV? Or is it really just an ‘anomaly’ at the bottom of the ice pack?

  15. “But the stability of this understudied continent is threatened by global warming, so all the countries of the world now must rapidly reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and limit the damaging effects of climate change.”

    This sentence was added to ensure continued ongoing funding. The rest is interesting.

  16. Is it beyond the wit of these ‘researchers’ to work out that Antarctica did not appear in its present state one afternoon but grew slowly from nothing over millions of years. During those millions of years most of the landmass was not glaciated and glaciers flowed downhill to the coast carving out ‘canyons’ aka glaciated valleys as they went. Subsequently as the icecap extended these glaciated valleys disappeared under the ice. They are the opposite of rias – rather than flooded river valley systems they are ice covered glaciated valley systems.

    You can see small examples of these ‘canyons’ all over north central Greenland (Warming Land for example). They are well depicted in Google Earth – 81° 23′ N 51° 42′ W.

  17. There is a MacDonald’s fast food restaurant hidden by the Antarctic ice – so the countries of the world must rapidly decrease their emissions of greenhouse gases.

  18. “…and because of some serendipitous reconnaissance radio-echo sounding data acquired over the canyons by the ICECAP project during past Antarctic field seasons.”
    ===============
    Serendipity means a “fortunate happenstance” or “pleasant surprise”.
    See how that plays with those that are trying to get humans to Mars.

  19. ” … But the stability of this understudied continent is threatened by global warming, so all the countries of the world now must rapidly reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and limit the damaging effects of climate change.”

    “And thanks to Comrade Napoleon, we will.” .

  20. The researchers believe that the landscape beneath the ice sheet has probably been carved out by water and is either so ancient that it was there before the ice sheet grew or it was created by water flowing and eroding beneath the ice.

    Uhhh, doesn’t that mean the ice has been melting a very very very very very long time? Or was this canyon created post introduction of the SUV? Just currious ;)

  21. Let the record show that I hereby claim priority for the first rafting permit when the ice recedes sufficiently. Got the GC experience. Connected in the hairball community…oh. There’s that little problem of the ice melting sufficiently. Damn. Brandon and I agree that to whatever extent orbital forcings pertain, sufficient recedence may be 90k years or approximately 4500 human (modern) generations in the future. Double damn. Totally leaves me out.

    Ok, future humanoids, we were there in spirit.

  22. The last sentence was a sudden change of direction and reminded me of the end of an old time radio show where the announcer reminded the audience of something like buy war bonds or kids don’t forget to brush your teeth. The article was very interesting about the canyon, and how the ice works. Too bad it had to be cheapened by a global warming pitch.

  23. 1st you have some satellite data from east antarctica.

    2nd you reconstruct huge features beyond the ice overhelming grand canyon.

    3rd you speculate about ice sheet covered rock carving rivers ACTUALLY FLOWING, with outlets undetected till now.

    4th you e-mail from some bureau in the UK about climate change tomorrow will destroy gigantic natural ice crystall attractions unlest stopping emissons imediatly.

    5th theres lack of adrenalin gauges in some bureaus in the UK. Not only in the investment sphere.

    Regards – Hans

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