New Survey Finds Antartica Covered in More Ice Than Previously Thought

August 12, 2016

Antartica is one of the most ice-covered locations in the world, but it is also one of the world’s largest land masses. Previous estimates by researchers placed the level of uncovered land in Antartica at about 1%. However, a new survey in part by NASA shows that this estimate was rather generous and the continent is covered in a lot more ice than previously thought. Researchers from Cryosphere have shown that only .18 percent of the entire continent is not covered by ice and snow, which is surprisingly low. With this new figure, researchers will monitor this survey over time to see the effects of climate change and global warming.

mars surface[Image Source: NASA]

“With effects ranging from influencing ocean currents to raising sea level, Antarctica plays a large role in the global climate system. Researchers are using a variety of methods to understand how Antarctica will react to a changing climate, but limited information on ice thickness and what lies beneath the ice makes this work challenging.” ~ NASA

This new research has been put off for a while, and it may surprise you that this is the first time we have had an accurate representation of Antartica’s land mass. Automated techniques were used in the new study to allow seamless data collection as well as the automatic removal of clouds over the continent to make the snow and ice readings more accurate. The NASA and US Geological Survey satellite was used for the new study, which corrected previous ice and snow calculations in comparison to land mass.

“Bedmap2, like the original Bedmap, is a collection of three datasets—surface elevation, ice thickness and bedrock topography. Over the past decade there have been many Antarctic surveys, which vastly increased the amount of available data. Researchers used data from satellites, aircraft and surface-based surveys to build a data product with higher resolution, greater coverage and improved precision.”~ NASA

mars ridges[Image Source: NASA]

The survey team developed a methodology that would help them automatically determine whether an exposed structure was rock or ice. In terms of the area of the land exposed in Antartica, only 8,396 square miles is ice-free, which is about the same size as the island of Fiji.

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