Bedrock Map Reveals Antarctic Topography
16.12.2011 - Logistics, Ice & Snow, Antarctic
A new comprehensive digital map of Antarctica’s bedrock topography called BEDMAP2 has been produced by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) using data compiled from an international team of researchers. The map was produced using over 27 million points of data acquired by planes, satellites, ships and dog-drawn sleds over the course of several decades.
The map shows deep troughs in the interior of the continent, where the bedrock is well below sea level, as well as mountain ranges as high as the European Alps at 3,000 metres – although they are covered by more than 1000 metres of ice.
Radar data taken during the ICECAP (Investigating the Cryospheric Evolution of the Central Antarctic Plate) and AGAP (Antarctica's Gamburtsev Province Project) projects in particular contributed a significant amount of data to compiling the map. Radar pulses penetrate the ice, hit the bedrock and bounce back, allowing researchers to determine the thickness of the ice and the depth of the bedrock.
While more data will be needed to fine-tune BEDMAP2 in the Australian Antarctic Territory between the Gamburtsev Mountains and at the coast near Davis Station. The new map will provide critical information to better understand how Antarctica might respond to climate change, as it will also allow scientists to use the actual topography of the continent to model the ice flow across the Antarctic continent. Better understanding how ices flows in Antarctica will make it easier to predict how the ice sheet will lose ice and ultimately how much it will contribute to sea level rise.