THURSDAY, 1 SEPTEMBER 2011A collaborative project between civilian space agencies has produced a map of ice flow in Antarctica, even mapping the vast and previously uncharted extent of east Antarctica. The project compiled satellite tracks and radar data from European, Japanese and Canadian satellites using NASA technology in order to measure the shape and velocity of the ice over time.
Rivers of ice have been detected flowing from the interior of the continent towards the coast, which had not previously been described. According to Thomas Wagner from NASA’s MEaSUREs program this means that “if we lose ice at the coasts from the warming ocean, we open the tap to ice in the interior”, which is critical information for future modelling of sea-level rise.
The study has also shown that the ice is unexpectedly moving with a significant ‘basal-slip’ motion, involving slipping at the base of the ice sheet. This will further help to refine models of ice sheet dynamics, as previous models have placed more importance on internal deformation. These findings will therefore have lasting scientific value for predicting the effects of the warming climate on polar regions.
Written by Catherine Moir