Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

NASA Satellites Yield Best-ever Antarctic Maps

Date:
January 26, 2006
Source:
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Summary:
Scientists using satellite data have now created the most detailed maps ever produced of the vast snow-covered Antarctic continent. The maps reveal unprecedented views of surface features that provide clues to how and why the continent's massive ice sheets and glaciers are changing.

Pine Island and Thwaites Glacier: This image shows detailed topographic features on the Antarctic Pine Island and Thwaites Glacier, using both Mosaic Of Antarctica (MOA) and ICESat Digital Elevation Model data.
Credit: NASA

Scientists using satellite data have now created the most detailed maps ever produced of the vast snow-covered Antarctic continent. The maps reveal unprecedented views of surface features that provide clues to how and why the continent's massive ice sheets and glaciers are changing.

Researchers can now decipher the intricate history of ice movements in the just-released "Mosaic of Antarctica," which uses images from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectrometer onboard NASA's Terra and Aqua satellites. The map is the result of a partnership between NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.; the University of Colorado's National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), Boulder; and the University of New Hampshire, Durham.

A second map to be released early next year will provide the most complete and accurate topographical survey of the continent ever undertaken, with more than 65 million points surveyed from space by the Geoscience Laser Altimeter System orbiting on NASA's Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite (ICESat). This "digital elevation model" produced at Goddard will be distributed by NSIDC in a format compatible with the Mosaic map.

"The Antarctic Mosaic shows a lot of very subtle changes in the slope of the terrain that you cannot see from the ground," says Robert Bindschadler, chief scientist of Goddard's Hydrospheric and Biospheric Sciences Laboratory. "These subtle variations are important because they tell us the direction the ice is flowing now and they indicate where it has gone in the past. The surface roughness also tells us about the bed underneath the ice and whether the ice is sliding over the bed or frozen to it."

The map will very likely reveal unseen features and new opportunities for exploration, Bindschadler said. "Antarctica is a big place, and there is still an awful lot of the ice sheet that hasn't been explored." The new map will be used by researchers to identify interesting areas and plan expeditions to investigate them.

The Mosaic removes the terrain distortion and produces a more accurate and natural-looking view of the continent and its very subtle surface features. "Using the Mosaic map together with the Canadian satellite, RADARSAT, is a real breakthrough," says Ted Scambos, one of the creators of the Mosaic at NSIDC. "The Mosaic shows the snow and rock surface almost perfectly, and RADARSAT reveals some of the features below the snow. It's very informative."

The ICESat topographic map complements the Mosaic's detailed views of the surface with elevation measurements over more of the continent than has ever been surveyed before. Although the very center of Antarctica remains unmapped because the satellite does not fly directly over the pole, more of the interior of the continent was mapped and in unprecedented detail.

"This is the most accurate elevation map of the ice sheet ever produced, says Jay Zwally, ICESat project scientist at Goddard. "And it will get even better as ICESat continues to acquire more elevation data for studying changes in the ice-sheet volume."

The precision of the ICESat map is more than 10 times better than previous satellite surveys due to the very narrow beam of the laser altimeter instrument compared to the broader beam of radar instruments flown before. The improved mapping of the height of the ice sheet, particularly in the interior of the continent, yields new information about how the topography of this remote area drives the flow of interior ice streams. Key areas such as the major ice streams feeding the Ross Ice Shelf are seen in detail for the first time.

Both maps will be distributed by NSIDC, which serves as one of eight Distributed Active Archive Centers funded by NASA to archive and distribute data from NASA's past and current satellites and field measurement programs. The Mosaic map is available through a user-friendly zoom-in Web interface that brings together previous maps, such as those from RADARSAT, with new data in different contrast settings that draw out hard-to-see features. The NASA-funded interface was developed at the University of New Hampshire by Mark Fahnestock and Norman Vine.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. "NASA Satellites Yield Best-ever Antarctic Maps." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 January 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/01/060126142830.htm>.
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. (2006, January 26). NASA Satellites Yield Best-ever Antarctic Maps. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/01/060126142830.htm
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. "NASA Satellites Yield Best-ever Antarctic Maps." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/01/060126142830.htm (accessed September 19, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Friday, September 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Wildfires in CA Burn Forest Asunder

Raw: Wildfires in CA Burn Forest Asunder

AP (Sep. 18, 2014) An out-of-control Northern California wildfire has nearly 2,800 people from their homes as it continues to grow, authorities said Thursday. Authorities said a man has been arrested on suspicion of arson for starting the fire on Saturday. (Sept. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

AP (Sep. 18, 2014) Grand the elephant has successfully undergone surgery to remove a portion of infected tusk at Tbilisi Zoo in Georgia. British veterinary surgeons used an electric drill to extract the infected piece. (Sept. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Squid experts in New Zealand thawed and examined an unusual catch on Tuesday: a colossal squid. It was captured in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea in December last year and has been frozen for eight months. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) A Texas man is lucky to be alive after he and three others floated for more than a day in the Gulf of Mexico when their boat sank during a fishing trip. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins