Ancient Antarctic Mountains Found Under Miles of Ice
Millions of years ago, rivers ran in Antarctica through craggy mountain valleys that were strangely similar to the modern European Alps, Chinese and British scientists reported on Wednesday.
In a study published by the British journal Nature, the scientists described a vast terrain that had been hidden beneath ice up to two miles thick for eons, until new imaging technology recently uncovered them.
"The landscape has probably been preserved beneath the ice sheet for around 14 million years," the paper said.
The imaging revealed "classic Alpine topography" similar to Europe's Alps, showing that rivers had once existed on Antarctica and had cut their way through the mountains. Later, these valleys were gouged and deepened by glaciers.
The research also looked at deep-sea isotope records and theorized there was a period of global cooling, called the Eocene, between 52 and 34 million years ago, that eventually led to the formation of the polar ice caps.
Then came two progressively dramatic periods of cooling, which scientists have linked to a decline in naturally-produced greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere -- the same gases that, now man-made, are blamed for global warming today.
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