In a bid to track future sea-level increases from climate change, researchers at NASA have come out with the first complete map of the speed and direction of ice flow in Antarctica.
The result is a possible game changer for the scientific community says Eric Rignot, a Professor at Earth System Science School of Physical Sciences at UC.
Rignot, also the Principal Scientist at the Radar Science and Engineering Section at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), lead the team of researchers in piecing together the arctic map.
This is like seeing a map of all the oceans' currents for the first time. It's a game changer for glaciology, Rignot said. We are seeing amazing flows from the heart of the continent that had never been described before.
The map, NASA said, will be critical for tracking future sea-level increases from climate change, who created it by using integrated radar observations from a consortium of international satellites.
Scientists say they were surprised when they step back and glanced at the full picture, as they discovered a new ridge splitting the 5.4 million-square-mile (14 million-square-kilometer) landmass from east to west.
The map points out something fundamentally new: that ice moves by slipping along the ground it rests on, said Thomas Wagner, NASA's cryospheric program scientist in Washington, in a statement.
The team also found unnamed formations moving up to 800 feet (244 meters) annually across immense plains sloping toward the Antarctic Ocean and in a different manner than past models of ice migration, NASA said.
That's critical knowledge for predicting future sea level rise. It means that if we lose ice at the coasts from the warming ocean, we open the tap to massive amounts of ice in the interior.
For 15 years, NASA worked in conjunction with various space agencies across the world to collect the data points that helped create this map. While some of the information was already known, the scientists made certain discoveries.
With the help of NASA technology, the team took the time to pieced together the shape and velocity of glacial formations, including the previously uncharted East Antarctica, which makes up 77 percent of the continent.