NASA Antarctica Columbia University Modeling Mountains Admiral Byrd Planet Earth

In 1991 NASA conducted a symposium where they presented the latest climate and weather research findings. The attendees read like who’s who in academic research, as it included, among others, representatives from the National Science Foundation, MIT, and Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. The minutes were written up in 1993 under the title, “Modeling the Earth System in the Mission to Planet Earth Era (see note 1,and Appendix I for a list of attendees)

The program objective was to make data available for computer modeling. One topic being the global atmospheric circulatory system that NASA described as one where winds carry warm moist equatorial air to the poles; where it condenses as snow and sleet, and compacts to ice (NASA p 9). This is not new discovery, as the same information can be found in most books on climate. One such book (published by the U.S. Government), “Aviation Weather, for pilots and flight operations personnel,” describes the same process: warm moist air rises from the tropics and deposits snow at the poles.

The book includes text and detailed illustrations (note 2).

So it was with some dismay when an article appeared in U.S. News and World Report (among other sources) wherein scientists involved in an expedition to Antarctica (some from Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory) made it clear they didn’t know where the Antarctic glaciers came from (note 3):

(quote) “it is unclear how Antarctica came to be ice-covered in the first place.”

The same article, contained other statements of similar content:

(quote) “We think also that there’s a strong possibility that the mountains are the birthplace of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet.

The expedition was financed in part by the U.S. National Science Foundation and included scientists from Columbia University, Pennsylvania State University, Washington University, University of Kansas, the U.S. Geological Survey, and others from Australia, China, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom.

Given the well known (and oft published) origin of polar ice, shouldn’t someone ask, “How could that many scientists not know where polar ice originates?”

The article, “Huge Mountain Range Should Not Be There” has some other points of interest, as it makes the statement, (quote) “One of the mysteries of the mountain range” (named after Gamburtsev Province) “is that current evidence suggests that it “shouldn’t be there” at all.”

The article is not clear about what evidence exists to challenge the presence of this mountain range – but it follows (since current theory suggests that mountains originate from tectonic activity) that the lack of such activity in Antarctica brings the theory under scrutiny. But it’s also known by practicing civil engineers and schooled physicists that colliding plates cannot form mountains (note 4).

Nor is it clear why mountains in Antarctica should have surprised the scientists. In 1929 (80 years ago) Admiral Byrd discovered a non-volcanic mountain range in Antarctica with heights of 15,000 feet, and named them the Edsel Ford Mountains. So it’s not as thought mountains in Antarctica are a rarity (note 5)

Sea ice, freezes at about – 2 degrees C. (according to data presented at NASA’s 1991 seminar) and influences both the ocean and atmosphere. In that regard it is similar to the affects of the glacial ice sheets that are just now being recognized for their influence on global climate (NASA p 48).

So given the uncertainties expressed by so many scientists on the origin of glacial ice – I’d be surprised to find any consensus on the age, difference, or character of sea ice or land ice in any university mentioned herein



1.) Sushel Unninayar & Kenneth H. Bergman, Modeling the Earth System in the Mission to Planet Earth Era, NASA July 1993

2.) “Aviation Weather,” 1965; Federal Aviation Agency, Department of Commerce (for sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.) Chapters 3 to 5

3.) U.S. News and World Report, “Huge mountain-range-should-not-be-there”

4.) A compression cone forms in advance of compressive forces that is known to dissipate stresses and prevents the formation of mountains or any of the serpentine formations known to exist.

5.) Byrd Antarctic Expedition


APPENDIX: 1991 NASA symposium attendees (ref. p 129 – 133)

National Science Foundation
National Center for Atmospheric Research
National Meteorological Center
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
U.S. Department of Energy
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

U.S. General Accounting Office


– Princeton University
– University of Arizona
– University of California San Diego
– Columbia University
– Oregon State University
– Colorado State University
– University of Wisconsin – Madison
– University of Washington
– University of Maryland
– Massachusetts Institute of Technology
– California Institute of Technology