In today's Nature paper ' The Gamburtsev mountains and the origin and early evolution of the Antarctic Ice sheet', Martin Siegert, David Sugden, and Simon Mudd from GeoSciences, and colleagues from the Polar Research Institute of China and the National Institute of Polar Research of Japan, suggest that Antarctica's first ice sheets formed during a period of significant climate change in the Earth's history.
They suggest that Antarctica's first ice sheets formed on central Antarctic mountain ranges, such as the Gamburtsev Mountains, around 34 million years ago. The authors present Chinese radar information suggesting that the Gamburtsev mountains were initially incised by rivers and later eroded further by ice movement. Their classic Alpine topography is buried beneath up to 3,000 metres of ice. The landscape probably developed more than 34 million years ago when mean summer temperatures were about 3 degrees Celsius, and the authors conclude that it has probably been preserved beneath the present ice sheet for around 14 million years.
Knowing how the polar regions respond to globally forced changes should help us understand the Earth's current changes in climate.For further coverage, see:
This article was published on Sep 1, 2010