Thanks in part to support from NASA and the National Science Foundation, scientists have produced the first-ever detailed maps of bedrock beneath glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica. This new data will help researchers better project future changes to glaciers and ice sheets, and ultimately, sea level.
Researchers at the Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets, or CReSIS, at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas, recently built detailed maps of the terrain beneath Greenland’s Jakobshavn Glacier and Byrd Glacier in Antarctica.
The results of this study were published in the September issue of the Journal of Glaciology. CReSIS is a major participant in NASA’s Operation IceBridge, a NASA airborne science mission aimed at studying Arctic and Antarctica land and sea ice.
CReSIS researchers used computer software to process and analyze data collected during field campaigns unrelated to IceBridge that were conducted in cooperation with NASA and NSF in 2008 and 2011 to build maps of the two glaciers.
These data were from an ice-penetrating radar instrument known as the Multichannel Coherent Depth Sounder / Imager, or MCoRDS / I, which is similar to the instrument IceBridge has used since 2009. Bed topography data are vital for computer models used to project future changes to ice sheets and their contribution to sea level rise. “Without bed topography you cannot build a decent ice sheet model,” said CReSIS director Prasad Gogineni.
Jakobshavn Glacier is of interest because it is the fastest-moving glacier in the world and drains about 7.5 percent of the Greenland Ice Sheet. Having a map of Jakobshavn’s bed has been a long-time goal of glaciologists. Byrd Glacier is also moving faster than average, but unlike many other glaciers, has been sounded in the past. Researchers mapped a previously unknown trench beneath Byrd Glacier and found that depth measurements from the 1970s were off by as much as a half mile in some places.
Ice-penetrating radar is one method for mapping bedrock topography. The instrument sends down radar waves, which reflect off of the ice surface, layers inside the ice sheet and bedrock back to the instrument, giving researchers a three-dimensional view. Ice-penetrating radar data from IceBridge flights helped build maps of Greenland and Antarctica’s bedrock and were even used to discover a large canyon beneath the ice in northern Greenland.
Imaging rock beneath glaciers like Jakobshavn is important, but more difficult than mapping the ice sheet interior. The relatively warm ice and rough surfaces of outlet glaciers weaken and scatter radar signals, making the bed difficult to detect. To overcome these challenges, CReSIS used a sensitive radar instrument with a large antenna array and used several processing techniques to remove interference and build a view of sub-ice bedrock. “We showed that we have the technology to map beds,” said Gogineni.
The MCoRDS / I instrument can be traced back to an early ice-penetrating radar CReSIS designed and built in the mid-90s in cooperation with NASA and NSF. In the two decades since then CReSIS has refined this instrument and has flown on NASA aircraft and alongside NASA instruments.
Researchers continue to improve instrument hardware and data processing and are looking ahead to mapping more glaciers in the future, which will likely involve small, unmanned aerial vehicles. “Improving ice sheet models means we need even finer resolution,” Gogineni said. “To do this we need lines flown much closer together, which small UAVs would be well suited for.”
For more information on NASA's Operation Ice Bridge, visit:
For more information about the Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets, visit:
George Hale | Eurek Alert!
Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology
22.06.2017 | Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft
How reliable are shells as climate archives?
21.06.2017 | Leibniz-Zentrum für Marine Tropenforschung (ZMT)
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Information Technology