Antarctica, without the ice

New NASA dataset depicts dark underbelly of frozen continent!

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Image credit: Flickr/JOHN LESTER


Ever wonder what Antarctica looks like beneath all that ice?

NASA did, so in 2001 the space agency used three datasets -- surface elevation, ice thickness and bedrock topography -- to create a project called Bedmap that constructed a model of Antarctica without its glacial covering.

But the resulting image wasn't all that detailed. Now NASA is back with Bedmap2, and the new, improved datasets provide the best model yet of a naked Antarctica.

"Bedmap2 includes many surface and sub-ice features too small to be seen in the previous dataset," NASA says. "The millions of additional data points in Bedmap2 also cover a larger percentage of Antarctica. Additionally, the extensive use of GPS data in more recent surveys improves the precision of the new dataset. Improvements in resolution, coverage and precision will lead to more accurate calculations of ice volume and potential contribution to sea level rise."

It's all part of Operation IceBridge, a six-year NASA mission to monitor changes in polar ice, a mission motivated by the importance of Antarctica to the global climate system. And the upgrade over the initial Bedmap is impressive. You can compare them below (the 2001 model is on top). For more, here's a treasure trove of IceBridge model imagery.

Bedrock model from 2001

Source: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio

Bedrock2, 2013

Source: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio

Now read this:

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