Scientists at the University of California, Irvine, have for the first time fully mapped the movement of Antarctica’s vast ice sheets
and glaciers, which comprise 90 percent of the ice on Earth. Using data gathered by
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
satellites from Europe, Canada, and Japan, the researchers have assembled a color animation depicting how the glaciers flow from the vast polar plateau to the Southern Ocean, with some ice sheets moving up to 800 feet a year. Lead researcher Eric Rignot said that the study showed conclusively that the rivers of ice move by slipping along their beds. “This is like seeing a map of all the ocean’s currents for the first time,” said Rignot. He and other scientists said that the glacial mapping project will be vital to understanding how Antarctica’s ice sheets and glaciers will react to warming temperatures, which will help scientists forecast future sea level rise. If glaciers and ice sheets melt more rapidly along Antarctica’s coasts because of rising ocean and air temperatures, that loss is likely to accelerate the flow of ice from Antarctica’s interior to the sea along the routes mapped by Rignot and his colleagues.