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NASA-funded research creates first complete map of Antarctic ice flow

August 19, 2011 - Washington

Scientists with funding from NASA have created the first complete map of the speed and direction of ice flow in Antarctica.

The map, which shows glaciers flowing thousands of miles from the continent's deep interior to its coast, will be critical for tracking future sea-level increases due to climate change.

The team created the map using integrated radar observations from a consortium of international satellites.

"This is like seeing a map of all the oceans' currents for the first time. It's a game changer for glaciology," lead author Eric Rignot of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and the University of California (UC), Irvine, said.

"We are seeing amazing flows from the heart of the continent that had never been described before," he stated.

Thomas Wagner, NASA's cryospheric program scientist in Washington said, "The map points out something fundamentally new: that ice moves by slipping along the ground it rests on."

"That's critical knowledge for predicting future sea level rise. It means that if we lose ice at the coasts from the warming ocean, we open the tap to massive amounts of ice in the interior," he added.

The study has been published online in Science Express.


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