Antarctica Just Became the Best Mapped Continent on Earth

New Antarctica Map Is Like ‘Putting on Glasses for the First Time and Seeing 20/20’

New Antarctica Map Is Like ‘Putting on Glasses for the First Time and Seeing 20/20’

This new high resolution terrain map of Earth's frozen continent will help researchers better track changes on the ice as the planet warms. And, not the least, scientists can now plan field expeditions to unexplored regions of the continent.

In a statement published on September 4, REMA project principal investigator Ian Howat, from Ohio State University, said that planet Mars had a better map than Antarctica prior to REMA. Luckily, our eyes in the sky have recorded the surface of the continent in excruciating detail so we might see what it looks like without having to put boots on the ground.

The newly minted Antarctic topographic map. "Now it is the best-mapped continent". By having such a detailed topographical map, new routes to science stations can be planned around the continent's unsafe terrain.

The project began with images taken from a constellation of polar-orbiting satellites that passed over areas of Antarctica an average of 10 times to take photographs.

For comparison's sake, this map has a resolution of around two to eight metres while most other continent maps are only around 1,000 metres in resolution.

Antarctica might not be the hottest tourist destination, but for anyone who does visit, scientists now have an incredibly high-resolution map of the white tundra. We are in a position to search for changes in snow quilt, changes within the motion of ice, we are in a position to be ready to visual display unit river discharge, flooding and volcanoes. From hundreds of thousands of satellite imagery gathered from polar orbit satellites from 2009 through 2018, a consortium of researchers has released the first version of the Antarctic Reference Elevation Model (REMA).

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They have produced the highest resolution map of any continent in the world thanks to a supercomputer that was able to assemble overlapping pairs of satellite images.

This map will be the ideal tool for research projects that will need data on snow cover, the motion of ice, thinning events, river or volcano activity and monitoring of climate change effects.

"We had to start from scratch to build this", explained Howatt.

"If you're someone who needs glasses to see, it's a bit like being nearly blind and putting on glasses for the first time and seeing 20/20", added Howat. "The software had to filter the data, process it, and turn it into a refined product for the scientific and broader community to use", said Howatt.

Other collaborators included the Polar Geospatial Center at the University of Minnesota and the University of IL, which provided the Blue Waters supercomputer that processed the images.

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