Have you ever wondered about what Antarctica looks like without the massive, mile-thick sheets of ice covering its surface?
Looking back at the geological history of our planet, we see a world much different than today. Things were pretty different in the past, and Antarctica, the icy, snow-covered continent was not always a white, icy desert.
In fact, the land of Penguins and snow-covered mountaintops was, roughly, some 3 million years ago, a much warmer and ‘tropical’ land.
Instead of miles of frozen water, nearly inhospitable landscape, the continent of Antarctica was teeming with massive green forests, flowering plants, a verdant landscape home to ancient animals of all sorts.
As noted by experts, the Bedmap2 ice thickness grid is made from 25 million measurements, over two orders of magnitude more than were used in Bedmap1.
The Bedmap2 project uses data from various sources including many substantial surveys completed since the original Bedmap compilation (Bedmap1) in 2001.
Our understanding of what lies beneath the world’s biggest ice sheet has taken another leap forward. In this video, we strip away Antarctic ice to reveal a new, and much more detailed map of the bedrock below.
This map, called Bedmap2, was compiled by the British Antarctic Survey and incorporates millions of new measurements, including substantial data sets from NASA’s ICESat satellite and an airborne mission called Operation IceBridge.
With effects ranging from influencing ocean currents to raising sea level, Antarctica plays a large role in the global climate system.
Researchers are using a variety of methods to understand how Antarctica will react to a changing climate, but limited information on ice thickness and what lies beneath the ice makes this work challenging.
Antarctica is an amazing place. On average, it is the coldest, driest and windiest continent on Earth and has the highest average elevation of all other continents. Today, most of Antarctica is a desert covered in ice. Annual precipitation levels are around 200 mm (7.9 in) along the coast but far less inland.
In fact, researchers believe that there has been no rain on Antarcitcas for at least 2 million years. Nonetheless, as much as eighty percent of our planet’s freshwater reserves are located there.
Were these to melt, it would contain enough liquid water to raise global sea levels by as much as 60 meters (200 ft).