Researchers Create Most Accurate Map of Antarctica Ever
Researchers have compiled a new map of Antarctica’s surface from high-resolution photos collected over six years from satellites orbiting hundreds of miles above Earth. The new map, named the Reference Elevation Model of Antarctica (or REMA for short), was created by researchers at Ohio State University. The map was published online by the Polar Geospatial Center at the University of Minnesota.
Millions of images were processed by one of the world’s largest supercomputers to create the map. The researchers built a tool that matched the images up, overlapping edges and aligning it to be as accurate as possible. The full map’s size is more than 150 terabytes. For perspective, the US Library of Congress had around 525 terabytes of web archive data as of 2014.
The researchers are saying that this is the most accurate map of Antarctica to date, being accurate to within just a few feet. Antarctica is a massive chunk of land that is nearly twice the size of Australia. The new map covers 5.4 million square miles and has a resolution of about 26 feet, more than 100 times sharper than previous maps.
Ian Howat, one of the researchers with the project and director of the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center at The Ohio State University, said in a statement, “At this resolution, you can see almost everything. 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.”
By measuring changes in the ice in Antarctica, scientists can learn a lot about the state of the planet. Howat said, “Now, we’ll be able to see changes in melting and deposition of ice better than ever before. That will help us understand the impact of climate change and sea level rise. We’ll be able to see it right before our eyes.”