World’s Deepest Land Canyon Discovered in Antarctica

Scientists announced that the world’s deepest land canyon has been discovered in Antarctica, deep beneath a glacier, stretching down almost 2.2 miles below sea level.

The researchers, led by glaciologists from the University of California, Irvine (UCI), presented their discovery at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco earlier this week and will publish their findings in Nature Geoscience. The scientists used a topographic map of Antarctica called BedMachine to find canyons beneath the ice, and eventually located the world’s largest land canyon underneath Denman Glacier in East Antarctica.

“Using BedMachine to zoom into particular sectors of Antarctica, you find essential details such as bumps and hollows beneath the ice that may accelerate, slow down, or even temporarily stop the retreat of glaciers,” said the study’s lead author, UCI associate professor of Earth system science Mathieu Morlighem.

“Older maps suggested a shallower canyon, but that wasn’t possible; something was missing. With conservation of mass, by combining existing radar survey and ice motion data, we know how much ice flows through the canyon — which, by our calculations, reaches 3,500 meters below sea level, the deepest point on land. Since it’s relatively narrow, it has to be deep to allow that much ice mass to reach the coast.”

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