Antarctic – A mountain range as big as the Alps has been discovered in the Antarctic, under the world’s largest ice sheet.
When scientists mapped the mountains for the first time using radar, they found that the highest peak was 2,434m (7,985 feet) above sea level.
Researchers were expecting a featureless plateau, but found instead the new mountain range, dubbed the Gamburtsev range. Water – in liquid form because of the pressure of ice above – was seen in rivers and lakes.
The six-week survey found one lake, named Vostok, that was 300km (187 miles) long – about the same size as Lake Ontario.
The survey was carried out by an international team, and was aimed at gathering data to improve predictions about the effect of climate change on the ice sheet. The presence of mountains shows a lack of erosion, indicating that the ice sheet formed far faster than was previously believed, and that the area may have been ice-free in the past. The ice is now more than 3,000 meters thick in places.
The shape of the mountains indicates that they were formed in a much warmer climate than today, more than 34 million years ago.
The implication of this, say the researchers, is that any rapid fluctuation in global temperature could have a much faster effect on the ice sheets than previously thought.
The research is published in Nature.