Scientists have made a detailed map of Antarctica’s rock bed — what the land looks like underneath the ice — as part of their attempt to predict how the continent might respond to global warming. Figuring out what will happen when Antarctic ice melts requires an understanding of what’s going on down below.
The inclined equatorial orbit of the International Space Station (ISS) limits astronauts to nadir views of Earth—looking straight down from the spacecraft—between approximately 52 degrees North latitude and 52 degrees South. However, when viewing conditions are ideal, the crew can obtain detailed oblique images—looking outwards at an angle—of features at higher latitudes, such as Greenland or, in this image, Antarctica.
Flying over Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier in a DC-8 research plane, scientists participating in NASA’s IceBridge mission made a startling discovery on October 14: a massive crack running about 29 kilometers (18 miles) across the glacier’s floating tongue. The rift is 80 meters (260 feet) wide on average and 50 to 60 meters (165 to 195 feet) deep, and it marks the moment of creation for a new iceberg that will span about 880 square kilometers (340 square miles) once it breaks loose from the glacier.
NASA-funded researchers have created the first complete map of the speed and direction of ice flow in Antarctica. The map, which shows glaciers flowing thousands of miles from the continent’s deep interior to its coast, will be critical for tracking future sea-level increases from climate change. The team created the map using integrated radar observations from a consortium of international satellites.
They are more cut off than the crew of the International Space Station. They are at Concordia in Antarctica, and one of them is ESA researcher Eoin Macdonald-Nethercott. If you want to follow in his footsteps, ESA is looking for his successor.
Photosynthetic microbial mats forming large conical structures up to half a meter tall have been discovered by astrobiologists in Lake Untersee, Antarctica. This research is described in a forthcoming article in the journal Geobiology. Photo copyright: Dale T. Andersen 2011.