New Antarctic map reveals hidden secrets | Polarjournal
The latest interactive map cannot only represent the surface of Antarctica, but also shows what lies beneath the ice: a sunken continent full of valleys, mountains and vast plains. Image copyright Antarctic Digital Database

There are many maps of Antarctica and the sub-Antarctic islands circulating. But few show the exact coastlines, the ice shelf fronts or the contours of the glaciers. The Antarctic Digital Database (ADD), run by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), collects the existing data and creates various maps online. Behind it is the Science Committee for Antarctic Research (SCAR), which also wants to visualize the changes that are happening in Antarctica. Now, BAS has added new data and created up-to-date maps for Antarctica.

The latest features of the map include updated glacial lines, a new island off Thwaites Glacier and a detailed coastline of the sub-Antarctic South Orkney Islands. In addition, the developers have added additional layers, which now also allow a view under the ice caps of the Antarctic continent. The map shows how many areas of the continent are currently below sea level, pushed into the Earth’s crust by the weight of the ice. The various mountain ranges at the edges of Antarctica can now also be switched on and off on the map. The data catalog has also been revised and the complete metadata can be accessed in various formats. “It was very exciting to work on the latest update of the database,” explains Laura Gerrish from BAS. “The new version is a fundamental change in the way the data is presented, making it easier than ever for users to access and work with the data.”

The Thwaites Glacier area is currently under particular investigation, as a collapse of the ice shelf could trigger an unbridled chain reaction. Video: PolarJournal

The region of Thwaites Glacier has received special attention. Several research teams have stepped up their work here in recent months. The glacier and its catchment area, the largest in West Antarctica, make a major contribution to the rise in sea level in recent years. The researchers fear that if the ice shelf collapses, which like a cork holds back the ice masses behind it, an unstoppable chain reaction will be set in motion. The warmer deep water that melts the ice shelf from below could then flow deep into the Antarctic Inland, thus draining the West Antarctic ice sheet. The new map shows that beneath the catchment area of Thwaites Glacier, there is only water, no land barrier. Additionally, the retreating ice shelf has brought to light a new small island that is now on the cards: Sif Island.

The South Orkneys are about halfway between South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula. The longest running station, Base Orcadas, is located on one of the islands whose coastlines are now more accurately represented. Photo: Michael Wenger

Data is also collected outside the Antarctic continent and the maps are updated. The latest update detailed the coastal trajectories of the South Orkney Islands and recorded the elevation swells of the islands. The islands are difficult to map because often, they are clouded and cannot be captured by the satellites. In addition, numerous icebergs are stranded here on their route around Antarctica and the pack ice can remain for a long time. This makes it a challenge to reach them by ship.

The data for the maps are collected from various research programmes and stored in a database available to all. This results in new digital maps. Photo: ADD

The Antarctic Digital Database has been in existence for 25 years and has documented important changes during this period, such as the break-up of the Larsen Ice Shelf, all the large icebergs and the new islands and new corners. The data is renewed every six months and is available to all interested people. The mapping department of the British Antarctic Survey is responsible for mapping.

Source: British Antarctic Survey / Antarctic Digital Database

Link to Antractic Digital Database:

https://www.add.scar.org/

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