This is neat. The British Antarctic Survey has created a virtual map of what Antarctica looks like underneath all that ice, which is nearly two miles thick in some areas.
Bedmap2, as it's called, was created by culling together millions of measurements from satellite imagery, aircraft using radio echo sound, and cartographic data, to create the most accurate map of the hidden continent to date. The original Bedmap taken in 2001 wasn't nearly as detailed, and relied solely on measurements taken from the ground.
"The new Bedmap shows, with unprecedented detail, the bedrock beneath the ice sheets of Antarctica," says Peter Fretwell of the British Antarctic Survey. "Before we had a regional overview of the topography, but this new map, with its much higher resolution, shows the landscape itself; a complex landscape of mountains, hills and rolling plains, dissected by valleys troughs, and deep gorges."
One of the researchers' primary goals in doing this analysis is to figure out exactly how fast Antarctica's ice is melting, which will help them better predict rising sea levels. Although it might not look that way, the continent's ice is slowly flowing into the ocean. And those sheets are said to contain more than half of the world's fresh water.
While we're at it, be sure to check out National Geographic's slide tool, which helps illustrate what Antarctica looks like with and without ice.
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