A multinational group of scientists have released the first ever detailed, high-resolution 3-D maps of Antarctic sea ice. Using an underwater robot equipped with sonar, the researchers mapped the underside of a massive area of sea ice to gauge the impact of climate change. Ben Gruber reports.
STORY: It took four years, two expeditions and one robot for a multinational group of scientists to create this - the first ever high resolution 3D map of sea ice in Antarctica. The project started back in 2010 aboard the RRS James Clark Ross fighting its way through ice to reach the Bellingshausen sea. Once there, the researchers dropped an underwater robot equipped with sonar underneath the ice. Its mission was to start mapping the underside of 500,000 square metres of sea ice. Researcher Jeremy Wilkinson from the British Antarctic Survey says the team wanted to put together a puzzle of sorts, matching data from underneath the ice with satellite imagery from the top… in an effort to gauge the thickness of the sea ice. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DR. JEREMY WILKINSON, BRITISH ANTARCTIC SURVEY, SAYING: "What we are trying to do is trying to look at how the surface features map on to the bottom features and from that we will be able to take satellite images that map the surface of the sea ice and therefore use an equation to take that surface mapping and create an ice thickness from that." And by obtaining ice thickness measurements and its changes over time, the scientists can produce more accurate models of the rate at which the planet is warming. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DR. JEREMY WILKINSON, BRITISH ANTARCTIC SURVEY, SAYING: "Sea ice is important if you are in a spacecraft looking at the Earth you look at the polar regions, they are very very white and that is reflecting a lot of the sun light back into space and therefore if you remove that white cap from the poles you get more solar radiation being absorbed which in turn heats the planet." Wilkinson says the area of sea ice has reduced dramatically in the Bellingshuasen sea in recent years and hopes these new measurements will help the researchers figure out why.