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Study: Glaciers protected Antarctic range

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Staff Writers
Pasadena, Calif. (UPI) Oct 15, 2010
An Antarctic mountain range, buried in ice and out of view, has escaped the erosion experienced by other mountain ranges on Earth, U. S. researchers say.

The Gamburtsev Mountains are evidence of a counterintuitive theory that glaciers don't always carve down and erode mountains but can in certain conditions protect them, reported Friday.

"It's feasible for topography to be preserved," Stephen Cox, a graduate student at Caltech and coauthor of a study paper, says.

The study of the range's erosion rate during the past 250 million years found the Gamburtsevs eroded just 1-1/2 miles to 5 miles, an order of magnitude slower than modern erosion in places like the Alps and other mountain ranges.

Cold glaciers or ice sheets atop the mountains could have protected them from experiencing normal erosion rates, Cox and his fellow researchers suggest.

"When you get to colder climates, glaciers are actually frozen to the rock," says geologist Stuart Thomson of the University of Arizona in Tucson, a coauthor of the paper. "They flow a little, but they don't erode much at all."

Radar surveys through the ice have confirmed the range is unusually rugged, with V-shaped valleys rather than the U-shaped ones characteristic of normal glacial erosion.

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