The Antarctic continent is a frozen landscape of sleet and snow. Almost 90 percent of the world’s ice is in Antarctica, which is covered with an ice shelf that is about 7,000 feet thick. If the polar ice melts, the world’s ocean would rise by about 200 feet. While it is unlikely for the Antarctic ice to melt considering that the average temperature is minus 37 degree Celsius, which is well below the temperature at which water freezes, it is more likely that only a portion of the ice will melt.
However, recently NASA revealed what lies beneath the largest ice sheet through animation based on the compiled data of British Antarctic Survey scientists over the last two decades. The new Antarctic maps from NASA expose how the region’s landscape would look if the ice ever disappears.
A joint Australian-British study showed on April 15, 2013 that the melting in Antarctica’s summer ice is 10 times faster in the last 50 years. British Antarctic Survey (BAS) is based in Cambridge, U.K. It is a component of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) which undertakes the majority of Britain’s Antarctic scientific research for over 60 years.
A 364-meter long ice core was drilled by a team from British Antarctic Survey and the Australian National University to measure prior temperatures in the area. Visible layers of the ice core are indicative of periods when the summer ice cap thawed and refroze.
Until very recently, Antarctic maps were about how the landscape would look like when the ice disappears is merely based on older technology. However, NASA released a video assembled by the British Antarctic Survey, called Bedmap2, which showcased the latest and most accurate look of Antarctica landmass. It was based from millions of databases supplied by NASA’s Operation IceBridge, which uses DC-8 airplanes to monitor the polar ice changes.
The purpose of Bedmap2 is to monitor the ice sheets covering Antarctica and the effects of constant shifting, melting, and freezing to our lives and the migration patterns of animals. The Bedmap2 updated Antarctica maps using 15 million measurements since 2001, which provides vivid pictures of the terrain underneath. The study about how the Antarctic maps would look like if the ice disappears is published in the Cryosphere journal.
Researchers could discover that the depth of Antarctica’s bedrock, the ice thickness, and deepest point are actually greater than previously thought. The study will give researchers a better understanding of Antarctica’s ice sheets and landscapes and its influence in the surrounding oceans and the climate.
Scientists are able to successfully measure the thickness of the layer’s melt to determine the 1,000 years of melting. This has helped in projecting accurate data about the indirect and direct contribution of the glaciers and Antarctica’s ice shelves to global sea-level rise.
Approximately, 10 million people are located near coasts, and flooding could be catastrophic because it wouldl cover much of the farmland and affect the world’s food supply, coastal cities would be underwater, and low-lying countries like Indonesia could be submerged. If polar ice caps melt, the rise in sea level would change the world’s coastlines. However, most scientists believe that the process will take thousands of years.
While it is impossible for the world’s land to be covered with water if the polar ice melts and even in severe flooding, only a small percentage of the world’s land would submerge, the implication of polar ice caps melting has impacts beyond a rise in sea level. Although the most-recent focus on the floating sea ice will not affect sea level, the land ice will have implications on the environmental system like the ocean circulation and altering seawater chemistry. Research, and maps of the probable landscape if or when the ice disappears in an interesting premise.
Written by: Janet Grace Ortigas