New antarctic ice thickness and bed topography data released

In a groundbreaking achievement for Antarctic research, a centralized and standardized dataset containing detailed information on ice thickness and bed topography is now available for the first time.

Over the past 60 years, more than 50 institutions have collaborated in conducting ground-based and airborne surveys to compile this comprehensive dataset. It offers valuable insights into the composition of Antarctica’s ice and rock, crucial for predicting future ice loss and its impact on sea level rise. The publication titled “Antarctic Bedmap data: Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable (FAIR) sharing of 60 years of ice bed, surface and thickness data” has been released in Earth System Science Data.

The Bedmap3 Action Group led the efforts, with support from the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research. Compared to the previous iteration released ten years ago, Bedmap3 contains significantly more data and coverage. It boasts 52 million new data points and 1.9 million kilometers of measurements, effectively doubling the available data. Additionally, 84 new surveys have filled major gaps, particularly in East Antarctica, including the South Pole, and have provided new insights into previously unexplored areas such as glacier troughs and floating ice shelves.

A major advantage of this achievement is that the underlying data is now freely and easily accessible to all researchers, adhering to Fair data principles (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable) and using internationally agreed and consistent data formats. This openness paves the way for developing more accurate models of future ice loss and sea level rise.

Alice Frémand, the lead author of the paper and a scientific data manager at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), emphasizes the significance of this milestone. She highlights the previous challenges researchers faced in using this data due to slow and difficult processes, resulting in significant time lags between data collection and utilization. With the Antarctic peninsula changing rapidly, such delays are not acceptable.

Peter Fretwell, a co-author and geographic information officer at BAS, underscores the collaborative nature of this achievement, involving more than 80 international partners. This successful project highlights the importance of international collaboration and data sharing in advancing scientific research.

This milestone represents a major step forward in future research and predictions concerning Antarctica’s contribution to sea level rise. Policymakers can use this information to develop climate change strategies and take measures to mitigate the impact of rising oceans.

Source: British Antarctic Survey

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