A team of researchers has released the most detailed and most accurate map of the Antarctican terrain ever created using high-resolution satellite images.
Called the “Reference Elevation Model of Antarctica” or REMA, the map has a resolution of about 8 meters or 26 feet to show every elevation across nearly the entire continent.
REMA was the triumph of experts from University of Minnesota and The Ohio State University.
Antarctica In High-Resolution
“Up until now, we’ve had a better map of Mars than we’ve had of Antarctica,” stated Ian Howat, a professor of earth sciences at The Ohio State University. “Now it is the best-mapped continent on Earth.”
Antarctica is the driest and most remote places on the planet. Prior to REMA, the most accurate topographical map of the continent offered about 1 kilometer or about half a mile in elevation.
Now, scientists know the height of every mountain and ice across the South Pole.
The new map was constructed using images taken from polar-orbiting satellites from space. From 2009 to 2017, the satellites and the team have been collecting these images for the project.
The Ohio State University developed a software that would process satellite images while the researchers from University of Minnesota put the map together using the Blue Waters supercomputer from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
Monitoring The Rate Of Ice Melting
“This is just the first step. We never dreamed we’d be able to process this volume of data with such accuracy,” added Morin. “Now, we’ll now be able to repeat this process one and a half times every year so we can see the change over time.”
Because REMA can provide the elevation across the continent, scientists want to use the new map to monitor changes in the ice due to the rapidly warming climate. A previous study published in the journal Nature predicted that Antarctica has already lost a total of 2.71 trillion metric tons of ice from 1992 to 2017.
The research also found that the rate of ice melt accelerated to 219 gigatons per year in the last five years. They used satellite measurements of ice sheet mass balance to come up with the rate of annual ice loss.
The Southern Pole has 90 percent of Earth’s ice. If all those ice sheets melt, the sea would rise by up to 190 feet.
Researchers from University of Minnesota and The Ohio State University hope that scientists will also be able to use REMA to plan trips to Antarctica.