Crack Open the CFCs: Antarctic Ice is Thicker Than We Thought

By Gerald Lynch on at

I jest, of course -- we've still got to live green if this planet stands any chance. But the Antarctic is looking healthier than scientists previously thought, according to findings from a groundbreaking 3D mapping project.

Scientists from the UK, USA and Australia conducted two mapping expeditions in 2010 and 2012 spanning 500,000 square metres, with their findings now published in the Nature Geoscience journal. Using the SeaBed autonomous underwater vehicle (UAV), they used an upward-looking sonar (UAV sonars usually point towards the sea bed) to map the thickness of ice shelves from their underside, 20 to 30 metres below the surface.

They found that, while the average thickness is between 1.4m and 5.5m depending on region, the maximum thickness could be as big as 16m in some spots, with 76 per cent of the ice mass "deformed" where massive chunks of falling ice collided together making new gigantic and dense slabs. Previously, few teams had managed to drill much further than 5.5m. This research will help scientists better understand the extent to which the Antarctic ice plains are changing, and, hopefully, lead to more advanced ways to slow its destruction. [Nature Geoscience via Guardian]

Image Credit: Antarctic pinguin (sic) from Shutterstock