NASA and a team of scientists at the British Antarctic Survey went undercover and revealed Antarctica unclothed, how the frozen continent would look like without the ice that covers it.
NASA and the British team gathered together decades of data, and now we have the result: a virtual map of what Antarctica looks like underneath all of its ice and snow. For the first time ever, we can see what the bare topography of the continent looks like.
The new virtual map, Bedmap2, was created from a huge amount of data that included recent measurements from airborne missions as well as satellites.
Antarctica’s mountain ranges have long remained a mystery, as they’ve been hidden deep underneath layers of ice and snow.Now, they are being revealed for the very first time.
The entire project was led by British Antarctic Survey scientist Peter Fretwell, but it relied upon NASA’s Operation Icebridge.
Operation Icebridge might sound like the title of a bad 007 flick, but it was an important operation NASA conducted that recorded Antarctica’s surface elevations, ice shelf limits and ice thickness.
What were some of the unexpected discoveries that NASA and the British team made?
They discovered that the volume of ice in Antarctica 4.6 percent greater than previously thought, and also that the deepest point turned out to be under Byrd Glacier. According to research Fretwell and his colleagues, that point was about 1,300 feet deeper than the spot that had been called the deepest. Their findings were recently published in the scientific journal The Cryosphere (PDF).
The Bedmap2 that NASA and the British team came up with could help humanity in the future. According to the study’s co-author, Hamish Pritchard, understanding the actual height and thickness of the ice as well as the landscape underneath will be fundamental to modelling the ice sheet.
”Knowing how much the sea will rise is of global importance, and these maps are a step towards that goal,” Pritchard stated.
The sharper imagery of Bedmap2 lets us see all kinds of things we couldn’t with Bedmap1. NASA’s deputy program scientist for cryospheric sciences, Charles Webb, is excited that this higher res map provides information about the flow of ice.
It helps to know the exact shapes of mountains and other formations to determine how quickly ice will travel to the ocean and cause the sea level to rise.
If you go to NASA’s website, you can view interactive images that show how the continent currently appears. Using a slider you can see the Bedmap2 topography below.
There’s also a feature which compares the original Bedmap from 10 years ago with the newest one.
Want to see a cool video of what Antarctica looks like unclothed? Watch it below! Please give this page a Like, also, while you’re at it.
Written by: Douglas Cobb