Glacial canyon discovered by Australian Antarctic researchers

2022-01-21 10:35:35Xinhua Editor : Feng Shuang ECNS App Download

Australian researchers have discovered a canyon that extends kilometers deep underneath an Antarctic glacier.

A team from the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD), part of the federal Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, on Friday said that they have discovered a canyon underneath the Vanderford Glacier in East Antarctica.

The canyon was discovered by Nuyina, the AAD's new icebreaking ship, while testing water near the glacier. It stretches 60 km away from the glacier, indicating it has shrunk significantly.

Voyage leader Lloyd Symons said the trench, which extends at least 3.5 km underneath the glacier, could be having a major impact on how quickly the ice is melting.

"The fact that there is such a deep canyon beneath this glacier would perhaps allow the possibility for warming waters to get underneath the glacier," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"One of the issues for Antarctic glaciers at the moment is them being eaten away from underneath by warming waters coming down from the north.

"If there is a deep channel underneath this glacier, then it's possible that may not bode well for the Vanderford Glacier, but that, of course, requires further study."

Acoustics officers aboard the Nuyina mapped the canyon over a 24-hour period following its discovery.

The team's findings will be shared with climate scientists and glaciologists to determine how the trench is affecting the glacier.

Sussan Ley, Australia's environment minister, said the discovery was a testament to the Nuyina's world-leading acoustic technology.

"The Nuyina is demonstrating that Australia has opened the door to new levels of polar research that will help us unlock secrets of Southern Ocean maritime ecosystems, strengthen our reach inland and our understanding of the world's climate," she said. ■


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