The amount of ice at the poles and glaciers around the world has shrunk dramatically in recent decades due to climate change. Ice loss becomes more apparent as temperatures rise, but to accurately predict the specific changes we need accurate data.
Against this background, researchers from the University of Edinburgh wondered if they could improve the data collected by the CryoSat satellite of the European Space Agency. They were able to re-process observations collected since 2010 and significantly improve resolution. They delivered CryoSat's sharpest 3D map of the Antarctic.
The results were presented this week at the Living Planet Symposium in Milan, Italy. CryoSat is equipped with a radar altimeter, which can be used to measure the altitude of global ice. The satellite sends a microwave pulse and determines how long it takes for the pulse to bounce off the ice and return to the satellite. Differences in the return time correspond to exact height differences.
While this approach has been very useful for mapping the large ice surface of the southernmost continent, it does not provide very detailed results on Antarctic land. Data analysis so far focused on the first data point that returned to the vehicle, possibly missing the finer details of bottoming.
The research team used an approach called "windrowing," which takes into account all the data coming from the microwave pulse. With this technique, they were able to reduce the spatial resolution on the surface to less than 1
There is great interest in creating detailed maps of Antarctica. Only last year, the best terrain map of the continent was published by researchers. The map is actually so good that it is the best map of any continent ever created.
The Antarctic remains an unexplored and somewhat mysterious part of the world, but its well-being is crucial to us. When all Antarctic ice melts, global sea level rises by a worrying 70 meters.
[H/T: BBC News]