Friday, May 19, 2017

Ice Flow in Antarctica

Like nearly everything else glacial land ice obeys the law of gravity. Therefore ice sheets flow downhill. They normally do this very slowly. Unfortunately we don't live in normal times.

Global warming has caused the the oceans to also get warmer. The warmer ocean waters undercut Antarctica's glaciers, causing them to flow quicker and quicker. Over 60% of the world's freshwater is locked in Antarctica's ice. If it melts we will see a global rise in sea level and coastal cities around the world will find themselves underwater.

The New York Times has created a series of maps to help explain how global warming could lead to the melting of Antarctica's ice sheets and cause rising sea levels around the world. In Antarctic Dispatches glacier ice flow is beautifully illustrated in a series of animated maps. The danger of global rising seas is explained in maps showing areas of Antarctica that have lost ten feet or more of ice since 2010.

Part 3 of Antarctic Dispatches uses a scrolling map to help illustrate the amount of water locked up in Antarctica's ice sheets. The scale of the Ross Ice Shelf is illustrated by overlaying the route of the New York marathon on top of satellite imagery of the ice shelf. The Ross Ice Shelf is huge!

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