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System of rivers beneath Antarctica’s frozen surface found by Brazil/Chile team

Wednesday, February 1st 2012 - 00:01 UTC
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Ricardo Jana from the Chilean Antarctic Institute Glaciologist, “a very special phenomenon” Ricardo Jana from the Chilean Antarctic Institute Glaciologist, “a very special phenomenon”

A team of Brazilian and Chilean scientists set out to investigate the effects of global climate change deep in the Antarctic continent say they have discovered a surprising system of rivers beneath the frozen surface.

The team of 17 specialists made their observations at the Union glacier just 1,000km from the South Pole along the 84th parallel far inside the interior of the Chilean Antarctic Territory.

The investigators were studying the effects of global climate change in the interior of the southernmost continent, which is almost completely covered in ice and glaciers.

Though Antarctica has a varied topography including mountains and valleys and has been known to have massive lakes deep beneath the ice, the team of glaciologists and cryosphere specialists say finding running water in liquid form in the area they did was astonishing.

“We're talking about an altitude of seven or 800m in the area we observed, with temperatures normally at 15 or 20 degrees [Celsius] below zero. Therefore, finding running water is a special phenomenon” said exploration team member Ricardo Jana and Chilean Antarctic Institute Glaciologist and researcher for the Centre for Quarternary Fuego-Patagonia and Antarctic Studies.

One of the Brazilian researchers, Jefferson Simoes, the director of Brazil's National Cryosphere Institute says they still need to study the origin of the rivers before drawing any conclusions.

“With Antarctica's wind we have some doubts. It could be warming or it could be, as we have seen many times before, melted ice water,” Simoes said.

The team left an automated laboratory just 670km from the South Pole which continues to send them vital readings including temperature, carbon dioxide and other atmospheric readings in real-time.

They also brought back with them a 100m sample of ice which will help them study atmospheric changes in Antarctica over the past 300 years.

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  • GeoffWard2

    The lakes and rivers have been well known for some years as a result of Russian and British Antarctic Survey investigations.
    It is good that the research is progressing and widening with researchers from other nations also, and I am particularly pleased that these include Brasilians and researchers from Chile.

    Feb 01st, 2012 - 12:01 pm 0
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