1. Global Earth Science Community
  2. Community Data System Programs
  3. MEaSUREs Projects
  4. Ice Velocity Mapping of the Great Ice Sheets: Antarctica

Ice Velocity Mapping of the Great Ice Sheets: Antarctica

The Antarctic ice sheet is by far the largest reservoir of fresh water ice on Earth and the largest potential contributor to sea level rise in centuries to come. Recent observations from satellites have shown that the ice sheet is not immune to changes and is capable of rapid response to climate forcing. In the Antarctic Peninsula, the progressive collapse of the Larsen ice shelves has led to the acceleration of glaciers by a factor as large as 8 in the matter of months and to the release of large ice masses to the ocean.

In West Antarctica, widespread glacier acceleration in the Amundsen sea sector has also led to a large impulse of ice mass into the ocean that is accelerating with time and contributes a large fraction of the total sea level rise from Antarctica.

These example observations demonstrated that the velocity structure of the Antarctic ice sheet, as in the case of Greenland, is constantly evolving with time, and that this evolution needs to be inscribed into Earth System Data Records (ESDRs).

These observations are crucial to help develop a new generation of ice sheet numerical models capable of more realistic predictions of the evolution of ice sheets in a warming climate that those presented in prior Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports which ignored the dynamics of glaciers and ice streams.

Our project will provide continent wide observations of ice motion for years spanning from 1996 to 2009, at high resolution (a few 100 m), high precision (a few meters per year), with a thorough coverage of major glaciers and ice streams. These ESDRs of ice motion will be made available to the scientific community at large through the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), Boulder, Colorado.

These records will provide timely inputs to cryosphere and climate change research projects and serve as a reference for future observations. The work will be based on extensive experience deriving such products for research projects funded by the NASA Cryospheric Sciences Program in the past 10 years.

Eric Rignot - PI, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Distributed by NSIDC

Last Updated: Nov 15, 2017 at 12:01 PM EST