An international team of researchers has released the first high-resolution 3D maps detailing the measurement of ice cover in the Antarctic sea region gathered by remote-controlled underwater robot.
Antarctic sea ice is considered to be an important gauge of environmental conditions prevailing in the polar region at a time when the global climate is changing.
But the measurement of the thickness of ice in this region has proved to be a hard nut to crack. But a remote-controlled submarine’s upward-looking sonar has offered an easier solution in gathering information about this region.
The underwater robot is a six-foot long sonar which is dubbed SeaBED. It is able to operate at depths of up to 100 feet (30 meters) and can offer great substitute for the satellite measurements, which can be easily skewed by the surface snow.
Study co-author Ted Maksym, also a sea ice expert from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, said, “Sea ice thickness and its variability in the Antarctic remains one of the great unknowns in the climate system.”
In the latest 3D maps, the 2010 and 2012 measurements cover an area of about 5.4 million square miles (500,000 square meters).
The findings show the sea ice thickness was even as much as 55 feet (17 meters) at some places, however, the average thickness was considerably less.
The study’s findings also suggest that the Antarctic sea ice cover may be thicker than earlier estimated in some regions.
Maksym said, “By demonstrating that detailed mapping of the thickness of the ice over large areas is possible deep in the ice pack, this represents an important step toward greater understanding of the processes that control the ice volume, particularly in areas that have been difficult to access.”
The scientists believe that the data provided by SeaBED along with those gathered by satellites about the sea ice and ice coring surveys could help in improving the estimates of ice thickness to a greater extent.
The findings of the study were detailed in the journal Nature Geoscience this week.