06 Dec 2011
Since the early 1900s, mankind’s understanding of Antarctica had relied solely on studying its harsh, icy outer surface. We have never really known what lies beneath in terms its rocky terrain, until now. Incorporating data acquired by planes, satellites and ships, scientists have created BEDMAP, which is a map of the landscape beneath the ice that will ultimately play a major role in satisfying our quest to understand how Antarctica will respond to climate change.
Changes to the outer edges of the continent, which includes volumes of ice being lost to the ocean and raising sea levels, has already been noted via BEDMAP Much of the data was compiled from airborne radar surveys that have been flown in recent years. Here’s more on this from the BBC:
Unlike rock, ice is transparent to radar. So by firing microwave pulses through the overlying sheet and recording the return echoes, scientists can plot both the depth of the rock bed and – by definition – the thickness of the ice covering. Instrumented planes, guided by GPS, will now fly back and forth across the ice in campaigns that can last weeks at a time.
What is truly astounding about this endeavor is that only 1 percent of Antarctica’s rock bed projects above the ice.