Chain of Cascading Lakes Discovered Under Antarctica

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But this is the first time such lakes have been discovered beneath the streams that carry ice from Antarctica's interior to the giant, Texas-size Ross Ice Shelf on the ocean's edge.

(See an interactive map of Antarctica.)

These ice streams carry a great deal of ice to the ocean, but the new study didn't find any unusually high rates of ice loss.

"We can't predict what this ice stream is going to do based on these measurements," Bindschadler said.

But, he added, the more we know about Antarctica's underground plumbing, the better we'll be able to make predictions in the future about how these ice streams will affect the levels of the world's oceans.

"This is a major step in that direction."

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