They have been able to take a look under Antarctica’s ice to create a new map of the valleys, mountains, and canyons. It was discovered that the deepest land on earth exists in the area and the future of ice loss will also be more easily forecast.
If you were to view Antarctica from above, it would look relatively flat. When you take a look under the ice pack, however, you see the ancient continent that lies underneath. It is a landmass like any other and seeing it in such a way helps scientists to determine how vulnerable the ice is now that the world is warming.
The new map from NASA is known as BedMachine Antarctica. Various data points were used in creating the map and revealing the hidden features, including land movement measurements, radar, and seismic measurements.
“Using BedMachine to zoom into particular sectors of Antarctica, you find essential details, such as bumps and hollows beneath the ice that may accelerate, slow down or even stop the retreat of glaciers,” Mathieu Morlighem, an Earth system scientist at the University of California, Irvine and the lead author of a new paper about the map, said in a statement.
The journal Nature Geoscience is where the new map was published on December 12. It shows many of the topographical features of the frozen continent that had previously been unknown.
Those unknown features have “major implications for glacier response to climate change,” the authors wrote. “For example, glaciers flowing across the Transantarctic Mountains are protected by broad, stabilizing ridges.”
As the earth continues to warm, having a better understanding of the Antarctic ice flows becomes increasingly important. The National Snow and Ice Data Center estimates that global sea levels would rise by 200 feet if all the snow were to melt. Although that is not going to happen anytime soon, even if only small parts of the continent were to melt, it could have a devastating effect on the planet.
Some of the data points toward Antarctica holding the deepest canyon on the planet. Researchers have been studying the amount of ice flowing through a narrow region, known as the Denman trough. As a result of that research, they feel that the canyon must be at least 11,000 feet below sea level. In other words, it’s much lower than the Dead Sea which is the next lowest region of land. It is at 1419 feet below sea level.
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The map points to regions of the continent where the ice is at risk of sliding into the ocean over the coming decades and centuries.
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