Scientists map huge rivers of Antarctic ice flowing into sea

An international team, led by Professor Eric Rignot of University of California, has produced a “jigsaw” of glacial formations using data from European, Japanese and Canadian satellites.

When the full picture was revealed it showed a new ridge splitting the 5.4 million square mile landmass from east to west. They also uncovered previously unidentified ice formations seen moving up to 800 feet per year across immense plains towards the Southern Ocean.
They were also moving in a way not predicted by past models of ice migration, say the scientists.

“This is like seeing a map of all the oceans currents for the first time. It’s a game changer for glaciology. We’re seeing amazing flows from the heart of the continent that had never been described before,” Prof Rignot was quoted by the ‘Daily Mail’ as saying.

Prof Rignot and his team focused on ice movement in Antarctica between 2007 and 2009. Most of the ice on earth is located in the continent, and its melting ice sheets could have a big impact on sea levels.

The research highlights the strong connection between coastal areas and the interior regions of Antarctica.

Dr Thomas Wagner from NASA’s Measures environmental data programme, which funded the study, added: “These researchers created something deceptively simple-a map of the speed and direction of ice in Antarctica.

“But they used it to figure out something fundamentally new: that ice moves by slipping at its bed, not just at the coast but all the way to the deep interior of Antarctica.That’s critical knowledge for predicting future sea- level rise.

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