A team of researchers from Ohio State University and the University of Minnesota has just released what they believe is the “most complete and accurate” map of Antarctica that had ever been created, according to USA Today.
With the help of high-resolution satellite images used in the creation of the map, it is now possible to determine the height of all of Antarctica’s mountains and ice levels in the entire continent, with a margin of error of only about six to 25 feet (two to eight meters), as reported by the Daily Mail. Aside from that, USA Today noted that the map will be able to help researchers determine the effect climate change might continue to have on Antarctica.
“Considering that Antarctica is the highest, driest, and one of the most remote places on Earth, we now have an incredible topographic model to measure against in the future,” said University of Minnesota earth scientist Paul Morin in a statement.
According to Ohio State University professor of earth sciences Ian Howat, his team’s map of Antarctica could “revolutionize” how scientists study the continent, as it is possible to see “almost everything” at such a high resolution. This can be seen in the highly detailed geographical features on the new map, as they contrast to the “blurred smudges” in older maps.
“We can actually see variations in the snow in some places. We will be able to measure changes in the surface of the continent over time. We will see changes in snow cover, changes in the motion of ice, we will be able to monitor river discharge, flooding, and volcanoes. We will be able to see the thinning of glaciers.”
Howat added that it wasn’t easy to create the new map, as his team had to “start from scratch” and deal with a number of other challenges. These included the long time it took to filter and process data until the map was refined enough to be released to scientists and the general public.
Over the past two and a half decades, climate change has caused more than 3 trillion tons of ice in Antarctica to melt, resulting in the world’s oceans gaining over 2 quadrillion gallons of water. The Daily Mail noted that this could also put people who live in coastal communities in danger of losing their homes and turning into “climate refugees” sooner than expected.
With ice melt in the continent contributing so much to sea level rise, the researchers believe their map of Antarctica could be instrumental in determining the exact role of global warming on the continued phenomenon. According to Morin, this could mean being able to see how sea level rise and climate change affects Antarctica “right before our eyes.”