CReSIS technology contributes to new Antarctic map


By Bill Daehler
Spring 2013

An updated topographic map of Antarctica was recently released using data from NASA’s Operation IceBridge.

Called Bedmap2, the dataset provides scientists with the clearest image yet of Antarctica’s bedrock. The new map is an improved version of the original topographic map of the frozen continent, called Bedmap, which was created more than 10 years ago.

The new map, produced by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and published in The Cryosphere, uses data from NASA satellites and Operation IceBridge. Measurements from NASA's Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) contributed surface elevation data. Ice thickness measures were taken during IceBridge missions.

The Operation IceBridge mission is the largest-ever airborne survey of the Arctic and Antarctic’s sea ice, ice sheets and ice shelves. IceBridge aircraft are flown with CReSIS instruments to collect and store ice thickness measurements; the missions generally deploy to the Arctic each spring and Antarctic in the fall. The installation and operation of the instruments is often overseen by CReSIS faculty, staff and students.

The map was generated using three datasets: surface elevation, ice thickness and bedrock topography.

The topographic map uses approximately 25 million ice thickness data points, many of which were accrued in recent IceBridge missions. CReSIS deploys its Multichannel Coherent Radar Depth Sounder (MCoRDS) to collect this type of data.

The MCoRDS radar sends signals through the ice sheets to determine the angle and timing of the waves. This tells scientists about the surface of the ice, its internal layers and the bedrock beneath the ice. During IceBridge missions, the MCoRDS and other CReSIS technology are fitted on NASA’s P-3 aircraft to fly missions over the Arctic and Antarctic.

Antarctic Map

Photo: The new topographic map of Antarctica, Bedmap2 (on the left), compared to the ice covering the bedrock (on the right). Courtesy of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

A CReSIS team recently returned from a deployment with Operation IceBridge in early May. The CReSIS team from the University of Kansas included Dr. John Paden and Dr. Bruno Camps Raga; GRAs Bryan Townley, Daniel Gomez-Garcia, and Logan Smith; and electronics technician Jay Fuller. IceBridge will again be deploying to survey Antarctica this fall.