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Vulnerable Valleys Found Among Antarctica's Ice-Covered Volcanoes

Climate Change

Vulnerable Valleys Found Among Antarctica's Ice-Covered Volcanoes
Posted: December 11, 2014

The best look yet at the hidden, ice-covered volcanic mountains in West Antarctica's Marie Byrd Land reveals never-before-seen deep valleys and steep, glacier-carved ranges, a new study reports.

The findings, from a radar survey that can "see" through snow and ice, could force researchers to redraw maps of this famous region. Marie Byrd Land has always been pictured as a highland speckled with active volcanoes that pierce through its thick ice cap. Researchers thought this extra height protected the ice from warm ocean water that gnaws away at the rest of West Antarctica's glaciers.

Mount Murphy in Marie Byrd Land, West Antarctica.
Credit: NASA / Michael Studinger

But the radar instead found much of the ice in Marie Byrd Land rests below sea level. And instead of a broad plateau, the region resembles the isolated volcanic ranges of North America's Basin and Range Province in the desert Southwest. 

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