Grand Canyon-sized valley found beneath Antarctica
Ice-penetrating radar was towed across the Antarctic ice sheet to reveal the massive valley below.
July 26th, 2012
01:47 PM ET

Grand Canyon-sized valley found beneath Antarctica

British researchers say they've discovered a massive rift valley beneath the Antarctic ice sheet that rivals the Grand Canyon in depth and is contributing to ice loss on the continent.

“If you stripped away all of the ice here today, you’d see a feature every bit as dramatic as the huge rift valleys you see in Africa and in size as significant as the Grand Canyon," the lead researcher, Robert Bingham, a glaciologist at the University of Aberdeen, said in a press release.

Fausto Ferraccioli, Bingham's co-author and geophysicist from British Antarctic Survey, said the valley allows warmer ocean waters to contact glacial ice, contributing to the melting seen on the continent.

“What this study shows is that this ancient rift basin, and the others discovered under the ice that connect to the warming ocean, can influence contemporary ice flow and may exacerbate ice losses by steering coastal changes further inland,” Ferraccioli said.

The work of the researchers was reported this week in the journal Nature.

The valley is in West Antarctica, which is losing ice faster than other parts of the continent, the researchers say.

“Thinning ice in West Antarctica is currently contributing nearly 10% of global sea level rise. It’s important to understand this hot spot of change so we can make more accurate predictions for future sea level rise,” David Vaughan, of the British Antarctic Survey's Ice2sea program, said.

The researchers came across the valley, which lies below the Ferrigno Ice Stream, in 2010 during three months of fieldwork on Antarctic ice loss. The area had not been explored in five decades.

“For some of the glaciers, including Ferrigno Ice Stream, the losses are especially pronounced, and, to understand why, we needed to acquire data about conditions beneath the ice surface,” Bingham said in the University of Aberdeen release.

The team used ice-penetrating radar over a 1,500-mile flat stretch of ice sheet, an effort that revealed the massive valley.

“What we found is that lying beneath the ice there is a large valley, parts of which are approximately a mile deeper than the surrounding landscape," Bingham said.

In comparison, the Grand Canyon falls off 7,000 feet, or 2,100 meters, at its south rim in Arizona, according to the National Park Service.

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soundoff (353 Responses)
  1. Davehuckle

    Millions of years ado, when Antarctica did not yet have an ice cap there was a lot of vegetation which has since turned in to Fossil Fuels that man will drill down to within the next 50 years. As Fossil Fuels become more and more scarce man will get very desperate and start drilling into places that were once completely off limits. Man will not stop using Fossil Fuels until they are 100% depleted from our planet.

    August 22, 2012 at 11:38 am |
  2. Kilroy Was Here

    The article says the ice shelf is melting because of the giant canyon is causing more contact with water. Is AlGore saying the canyon was causing by something mankind did within the last 50-100 years?

    August 21, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
  3. doyle

    Wow, now I'm afraid to go outside! I mean, with all that frightening stuff going on, isn't it just too dangerous to even leave my yard ? Maybe I can find a good book to read instead...nothing too scary though.

    August 9, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
  4. Nerd

    10,000 Years ago we came out of the last great ice age and humans flourished with good farming temperatures.
    Prior to this there was massive oscillations in global temps going from ICE age to tropical conditions.
    You only need to look at this graph once and anyone with moderate IQ could ask these simple questions.
    1. What caused these large temperature oscillations?
    2. What made them go away?
    3. Will they ever return?

    As species with the most advanced super computers and Nasa satellite data and eons of data from pas ice packs we are still too primitive to understand how the Earth self controls it's own temperatures.

    Suffice to say that there are multiple feedback loops involved at a planetary level and probably some at a interplanetary level that affect the earth's temperature.

    So now a few more questions

    1. Is the Human Species contributing to a global rise and temperatures?
    2. How much of the Earth's warming is due to it's own closed loop control system?
    3. Can we stop it?

    Until we fully understand how the earth regulates it own temperatures we cannot fix it. So these few simple questions cannot be answered with a great degree of certainty.

    I believe that if continue to let lawyers and tv personalities drive the debate we will never find the answers.
    I also believe that our current world leaders are scientifically challenged.

    Both of these are very bad for the long term outlook for our species.

    August 9, 2012 at 1:44 am |
  5. condonate

    It is best to live in denial and embrace the economic benefits of extracting and burning fossil fuels. Obviously the population of the world is steadily declining and therefore will use much less energy in the future. Fossil fuels are also becoming much easier to locate, extract, and are having less of an environmental impact on the ecosystem. Our descendants will likely be much smarter than us and surely figure it out for themselves.

    P.S. as an American I would prefer if gasoline stays below 1 one dollar per gallon as my SUV has a big tank, plus I blame President Obama for all of my past, present, and future problems.

    August 8, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
  6. 4thdimnsnal

    The Earth is going through a natural process. Man's introduction to the planet has NOT caused the climate-scape that we are witnessing.

    August 7, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  7. Joe Senior

    If you were to create the best
    passive heat sink.
    It would have a black and ruff
    exterior. With a large dense mass
    for a sink. We have built them.
    Its like out of an alien movie.
    The planets is being Terri formed
    by an advance civilization.
    Its scope circles the planet many times
    With a foot print that now match's
    the great deserts of the world.
    But unlike a desert with loose strata.
    That doesn't transfer or retain heat well.
    This one has a highly packed stone base.
    That transfers the heat many feet
    into the ground. Defeating the natural
    insulation that sod and tree cover
    Because of its it's color it is well capable
    of capturing at least 90% of the suns energy.
    This heat being relayed directly into the
    ground means that any increase in heat
    will take longer to bleed off.
    And as demonstrated by the temperature
    increases found under the Siberian permafrost.
    Its not "global "as in atmospheric
    its much worst, the planetoid it self is being
    warmed up.
    Trace gas fixes to the atmosphere is a red
    herring for the public. It will not counter
    the heat gain. Which is steadily increasing.
    Yes the roads that we build, driveways and
    Parking lots are changing the planet.
    With the developing Country's now building
    Roads ands driveways ..ect.
    This is what has to change and should be in
    some scientific analyses.
    Its not that the atmosphere's losing its
    ability to transfer heat to any real degree.
    Instead it's heat collection that is increasing..
    man's Terri forming.
    And that simple truth is not even considered.
    Without intervention for the real cause it
    will continue to get worst.
    Your homes roof is more then likely has asphalt.
    Go touch your car on a hot day.
    Your very intelligent and I reach out to you.
    There is a" great deception" going on here.
    Plants and sod work as a insulator for mother earth.
    You can't strip it out and lay asphalt and stone and
    not get a net heat gain.
    This is basic science and the scientific community
    is void of any counter alternative to our global
    climate situation. I fear that if the situation escalates
    and we don't address are follies the end is coming.
    Tree lined roads would be a simple and immediate
    fix. Infrastructure design that pacifies heat collection.
    The situation can be fixed. But not with the present
    main stream fixation on the atmosphere.
    The problems a little closer to the ground.

    July 30, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
  8. Vidallius

    This is just another jobs program.

    July 29, 2012 at 1:35 am |
  9. mmi16

    The Earth has been through heating and cooling cycles hundreds of thousands of times over billions of years – all without man. The cycles will continue – with or without man.

    July 28, 2012 at 11:52 pm |
  10. jaimie

    Global warming folks. It has happened for millions of years past and now we are seeing a transformation right before our very eyes. Thank god it is not going the other direction for a global ice age.

    July 28, 2012 at 8:50 pm |
  11. Rick Springfield

    Just look at the Vostok data set. It will tell you that global warming and then cooling has been going on for at least 450,000 years. It is on a 125,000 year cycle and cannot be stopped. Earth will warm, regardless of what we do. Then Earth will cool again, regardless of anything we do. We cannot overpower the cycles that run Earth. The Vostok ice core samples also include oak leaves that indicates the Antarctica was covered in the warm times with lush forests. Then if you look at the fossils of ocean marine life in southeast Oklahoma, we know that the ocean will take over much of the world when the polar caps melt. But rest assured, Earth always recovers, like it has at least 4 times according to the Vostok data set.

    July 28, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • KnowTheTruth


      you cant go against the new world order who are using 'climate change' as their fav boogeyman

      July 30, 2012 at 9:19 am |
  12. DuluthMN

    OK, climate change is happening. It's not clear humans can do anything that will alter that anytime soon. Shouldn't we be giving discussion emphasis to how we're all going to live in changing conditions? I don't see much in the way of anyone talking about how we adapt to the changes. Is survival of humans on this planet a worthy topic?

    July 28, 2012 at 11:59 am |
  13. KnowTheTruth

    July 27, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
  14. KnowTheTruth

    Global Warming aka Climate Change aka One World Government is a hoax

    I wont be played

    July 27, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
    • Yossarian

      The truth is that "KnowTheTruth" has a very inaccurate username.

      July 29, 2012 at 10:04 am |
  15. patNY

    Anyone who questions the reality of man made global warming climate change probably still thinks the jury is out on whether smoking causes lung cancer since, after all, some industry "scientists" questioned the scientific link reached by objective researchers back in the 1950s.

    Global warming due to man's unnatural release of Earth's green house gasses, is real, and will be the end of us all becaue its easier to shove our heads up our a$$es and ignore the problem.

    July 27, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  16. palintwit

    The same ice penetrating radar that was used to find the valley can also be used to penetrate Sarah Palin's skull to see if she has a brain.

    July 27, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
  17. Jimbo

    Glad I live at 7000' above sea level. Global warming, climate change, whatever you want to call it MAY be accelerating due to human activity, at least that is what the graphs show. I can not argue with what was shown in the environmental science class that I took a few years back, unless the scientist are lying which appears to be a theory by some but I doubt that 100s of scientist all have this big hoax going on. So what if we are contributing to the cause? It's not going to stop no matter how much the idealist want it to, there are too many emerging economies in the world, it is just going to get worse. Instead of complaining and non-stop arguing about what is causing the planet to warm, we just to simply focus on what are we going to do to live in a hotter climate. Yes, more fuel efficient machines and new green techonoligies are good but aren't going to do anything except make are planet look better without all the drilling, mining and air polution but the planet will keep warming.

    July 27, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • patNY

      Its not just a matter of dealing with a warmer planet, the extra moister reaching the ozone layer is depleting it over North America...we will all be dead of skin cancer...and the oceans will be devoid of life because of the reduced salinity...and the uncontrolled insect boom will spread disease.

      July 27, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • Aaron

      It may not be a conspiracy per se, but you have to understand the concept of groupthink in the scientific community. When a theory gains prominence, it can become detrimental to one's career to deviate from that theory in one's own work. So a professor of climatology working at a university where ALL the other professors subscribe to the man-made warming theory may feel enormous pressure to conform or risk being denied tenure or grants to further his/her work. They may even feel that their job is at risk. I am not going to say that warming isn't happening, but I think many other factors besides human ones are being overlooked because the scientific climate has not allowed for other possibilities. So vast amounts of money, both political and private, are being spent to research and counteract warming that just about everyone says is human induced, yet may very well not be.

      July 27, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
      • Davd1958

        Right. Its called peer pressure.

        July 27, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
      • Yossarian

        Or maybe they're right and you're wrong. Ever think of that? No, probably not.

        July 29, 2012 at 10:00 am |
      • clayman

        Absolute bunk. I gather you are no professor of science. You present your theory backed by data and rational explanation and other scientists will listen to you, it does not matter that your idea goes against the grain. Quite the contrary, it will be welcomed by the scientific community, but you must BACK IT UP with theory and with experiment.

        July 29, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
      • Wanna Know

        I guess my question is what happened to all the acid rain we used to hear about? I remember hearing that we were not going to be able to go outside when it rained due to the danger of the falling water, and all the crops were going to die because of the rain. Also, hasn't scientist said that the earth has gone through periods of extreme cold and extreme hot in its history....many times? mayabe this is one of them? Just askin...

        July 30, 2012 at 11:58 am |
      • peridot2

        Rain is still acid.

        The ocean has been affected by the acidity in rain. If you've ever had an aquarium, you know how difficult it is to get the PH balance right for your fish. If it's not correct they die quickly. The ocean's PH balance is changing now. Some corals will soon be unable to reproduce. Coral reefs are fish nurseries for our food species and life on this planet depends on them.

        In the last 200 years since the Industrial Revolution we have pumped thousands of years worth of carbon into the atmosphere. We have sped up the carbon cycle more than the planet can absorb naturally.

        The naysayers who claim it isn't so are denying science and weather and truth. If you search online you can find websites that claim this is not happening. Remember that there are people who claim we never visited the Moon. If that's the case, how is it that the mirror is there for daily laser reflection?

        Ask yourself this question: since the Industrial Revolution, we have burned coal, oil, gas and wood. With increasing human population, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased 100 ppm above pre-industrial levels. Surely you must agree all that CO2 has an effect.

        August 7, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • Ryan in Texas

      Jimbo – the real problem I have is if you accept the theories of warming as fact, but then use them from a previous sarting point, let's say 100 years ago, and then run them forward – they are WAY OFF in what actually happened. So they have to be very selective about the starting point. That is bad science.
      Another problem is that they predicted much larger sea level rises than actually occurred. Essentially, to disprove their theory, they will not let you use the data we already have. That is bad science. They want to frame the debate so you have to counter speculation with speculation, at which point they will tell you their speculation is superior because of their specialized education. Again, if we use their theory, and run it from 100 years ago to today, they predict not a few centimeters of rise, but meters of rise. That clearly didn't happen.
      We wouldn't accept this type of thing in any of the other hard sciences. We would expect to be able to plug in historical data and predict other historical measurements.
      Case in point: there is still no explanation of the warming period (it was warmer than now), of about 1000 years ago. It fits in no formulas. It clearly wasn't CO2. Yet it happened. And we could be in the exact same sort of warming period today, caused by the exact same reason (yet unknown).
      Until we can explain the past with our theories, using the same theories to predict the future is unreasonable. And making policy decisions of massive scales based on it is beyond unreasonable.

      July 27, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
      • Gadflie

        Ryan, actually, no. While the computer models would be off if you picked a date 100 years ago, that is only because they are designed using modern greenhouse gas output, not the levels a century ago.
        And, the sea level rise is actually above the mid point of the possible curves in the models. So, wrong again.
        Third, the Medieval Climate Optimum was NOT warmer than it is today. Sorry to burst your bubble.

        So, in short, BUZZZZZZ, thank you for playing.

        July 29, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
    • Mike E

      People, when they compare themselves to Earth, should realize how insignificant they are. "Global warming" is crap. It is doomsday idiots talking. Our existence on this planet has only been measurable for a short time and if this Earth were to change in atmospherics it could wipe the humans away just like the dinosaurs. The scientists base their "ideas" on measurable time. This could all just be a cycle in the earths' million year cycle. Humans need to get over themselves.....

      July 29, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
      • massbytes

        You need to get over not have an education in science and therefor not being able to do the mathematics it takes to understand that mans activities are magnifying what would be the natural climate. Start with the effects of CO2 concentrations in the atomosphere currently compared to when they were this high in the ancient past. And yes, they know what they were in the past from core samples etc.

        July 29, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
      • ezo

        Well, you are the expert!

        July 30, 2012 at 12:42 am |
  18. huh?

    Hey libtard, where exactly did you see anything political in Gwen's post? Why the instant attack to spew vitriol against the right? Big words scare you?

    July 27, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
  19. NoLibtardsAllowed

    Leave it to Libtards to elect a community activist who would count on Solyundraflop and Telsajoke instead of increased oil drilling.

    July 27, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
  20. Gwen

    Someone needs to elevate their level of scientific competence. Where they were measuring the flow rate of the water going into the hole in Greenland, there was no need for all the drama. They could have just as easily measured the flow back a safe distance from it, taking into consideration laminar flow characteristics. Such sensationalism is beneath a good scientist.

    July 27, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
    • ADiff

      Really....? But then we'd have almost no Science at all today, since most Science nowadays is all about sensationalism, publicity and advocacy. Fact is, it's hardly at all about finding the truth anymore, and all about finding support for a point of view.

      July 27, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • ed

      First of all, this article is about antartica not greenland-did you actually read the post. Second, Its lovely that you tried to impress all these tea party tin foil hat types with your vast knowledge of flow dynamics. Unfortunately for you any smartish person can see that you are a pretender. For instance, how on earth would you be able to arrive at a reynolds number to facilitate such a calculation. Don't you need an accurate measurement accross the width of the (pipe/channel/cavern) in order to determine flow rate. How do you do that with ground penatrating radar through an ice sheet. Not going to happen. By the way whats the most practical way to go about measuring laminar flow from a 1000 mile wide complex current which dips beneath an ice sheet at multiple points and then may/may not/or probably does descend thousands of feet into a cavern before exiting the ice sheet at multiple points. I think we're going to need alot of orange dye to make accurate scientific measurements of the laminar flow rate under west antartica... I'm not sure but I really don't think your going to find enough food coloring to do that.

      July 27, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • Groo reply to Gwen has been the most amusing retort that I have ever come across in years!

      July 27, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • warsteiner

      Careful yourself Gwen when you know it all whats left to discover. And just because you read an article or did some work doesnt make your finds fact. Theo God like,omnipotent, Theo is Greek for God,

      July 28, 2012 at 7:13 am |
    • Mark in Phx

      Let's see, the valleys and rifts are a natural feature of Antartica – humans did not cause them. The ice extends to the ocean. The ocean water gets under the ice. The ice melts. This is the fault of human activity. Since the earth has been around for about 4 billion years, I wonder what the natural cycles of the earth did before we came along.

      July 28, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  21. PainCase

    These people have got to be kidding if they actually think that the stuff posted here is anywhere near accurate. Here it is one time so get it and stop adding tripe to the pool. The climate is indeed cyclic, Orbital perturbance causes the earth to rotate closer or farther away from the sun. This is what causes the 100,000 year Glacial periods and the 10,000 or so year warm cycles, Natural process on the earth contribute to the cycle and just recently man has contributed aswell and continues to modify the natural cycle on the earth through a number of ways, Agrigarian,Domestication,Fossil fuels,Construction,Deforestation,etc.etc.The natural properties and cycles will magnify these in unpredictable ways and will compress the time frames for the effects to reach their potentials.That is why our planet has warmed and maintained its warming despite the fact that the interglacial should have already began. We are the reason for this perturbance. Get it or are you missing the ability for basic reasoning.

    July 27, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • Lucy in the sky without diamonds

      Give it a rest Glen.

      July 27, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
  22. BLKvotingAmerican

    I say what it represents is GOD's assummness.

    July 27, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • Bobber

      I think people would be more nervous if the the planet was getting colder and entering an ice age. Since most of North America was covered by ice during the ice age, it was very important for us to have global warming to get to this point.

      July 27, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
      • melvinslizard

        The glaciers only extended as far as Chicago... I don't think the (empty) spaces in Canada minded too much...

        July 27, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
  23. THX1953

    Didn't they know???

    Hell, it's were they filmed Alien Vs Predator!

    July 27, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • Cecil X. Nixxon

      Naw, that was the GWAR movie. They crashed there and hibernated until it was time to become a killer (literally) band and subjugate humanity.

      July 27, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
      • saddened

        Global-warming is caused by Beefcake's flatulence.

        August 2, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
  24. Richard

    Global warming kooks want the Arctic, Greenland AND Antarctic to remain ice-covered, as well as a good part of the northern hemisphere.

    July 27, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • Jkhur

      And your genius plan is to have the ice sheets melt, and the resulting ocean rise displace tens, if not hundreds, of millions and cause hundreds of billions in property loss?

      July 27, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
      • max3333444555

        im no scientist. i dont know whos data is correct or not. i dont know any scientists personally to judge their credibility. i will say though that a loss of land mass that actually threatens human population is unlikely. we are quite capable of building floating islands and even real ones.

        in the end, if i do believe that global warming is real, other than plant some trees in my yard and watch my own carbon level, there is not much i can do.

        July 31, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
    • Cecil X. Nixxon

      Kooks = the educated
      Libtards = challenge selfish power-grabs
      I get the doublespeak, but what I can't figure out is how this can be so darned amusing to be constantly repeated. Sometimes I think the morbidly conservative trolls are really a modified 'eliza' program written in TRS80-BASIC.

      July 27, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • Paulverizer

      So, what's wrong with wanting the Greenland Ice Shield and the Polar Ice caps to retain at least some of their ice?? After all, these are features that have a direct impact on the weather. By the way, so does the Amazon Rain Forest, which, if the data coming from down there can be believed even the least little bit, is rapidly disappearing. Is it any wonder we are having warmer and warmer summers, and seemingly milder winters? I don't like extreme hot weather, and I suspect that a lot of you little hot-house plants won't either, if the temps keep rising. It's not too hard to say you can stand the heat when you're sitting behind a computer screen, typing, in an A/C'd room!

      July 30, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
  25. Liesurereader

    WOW! Thanks, guys, for the entertaining reading. Maybe things are not as they seem and it doesn't REALLY matter...... it is your perspective.........Take a load off... Live each and every day to the fullest and thank God for loving you.

    July 27, 2012 at 11:51 am |
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