This is the Most Detailed 3D Map of Antarctica Yet, and it Reveals Incredible Surface Features

Scientists from the University of Edinburgh have created a new, stunning map of Antarctica by processing 3D data from the European Space Agency’s CryoSat satellite, offering previously unseen 3D details of the terrain that exists on the icy continent.


CryoSat carries a radar altimeter that measures the height of the planet’s ice.

Typically, the data is used to map the height of the ice at individual points.

Since its launch in 2010, the data the satellite gathered has revealed a lot about how ice sheets, glaciers, and sea ice are changing. Now, a technique called ‘swath processing’ takes the data to a new level.

As noted by a statement from the European Space Agency, scientists have used CryoSat’s novel ‘interferometric mode’ to produce whole swaths of data and in much finer detail and faster than is gained by conventional radar altimetry.


The usual spatial resolution of a few kilometers has been improved to less than one kilometer.

In the new study, researchers explain how “the interferometric mode of CryoSat-2 can be used to map broad (5 km-wide) swaths of surface elevation with fine (500 m) spatial resolution from each satellite pass, providing a step-change in the capability of satellite altimetry for glaciology.”

“These swaths of elevation data contain up to two orders of magnitude more surface elevation measurements than standard altimeter products, which provide single elevation measurements based on the range to the Point-Of-Closest-Approach (POCA) in the vicinity of the sub-satellite ground track.”

The technique is allowing scientists to finally better understand the change in ice and to predict how ice sheets, glaciers, and ice sheets behave as climate change becomes more and more expressed.

This is important with respect to global concerns such as sea level rise, reports ESA.

The team used this method to map Greenland in 2017, and now the Antarctic model is finally here, revealed incredible surface features of Antarctica that have remained unseen until now.

Both datasets can be downloaded from the CryoTop website.

The data have been collected and processed over the Antarctic Ice Sheet between 2011 and 2016. These data have been processed by the University of Edinburgh and are made publicly available as part of the European Space Agency funded project CryoTop and CryoTop Evolution involving the University of Edinburgh