June 14, 2024

Scientists have discovered 2,000 kilometers of Antarctica’s coast covered with stable ice for 85 years

General map of the area examined. Photo: Mads Domgaard
Francisco Martin Leon

Francisco Martin Leon Spain meteorite 6 minutes

Forgotten aerial photographs of the whaler from 1937 Researchers at the University of Copenhagen have obtained the most detailed picture yet of the evolution of the world’s ice East Antarctica Delivered.

The results show that The ice has remained stable and even grown slightly for about a century, Although scientists are seeing early signs of weakness. The research provides new insights that improve predictions of glacial changes and sea level rise.

Good news from East Antarctica

Rising temperatures, extreme weather conditions, melting glaciers, rising sea levels: all of this indicates that climate and climate change The world’s glaciers are in critical condition. New, in Nature Communications However, a published study from the Department of Earth Sciences and Natural Resource Management at the University of Copenhagen offers a local glimmer of hope.

Using hundreds of old aerial photographs dating back to 1937The researchers used modern computer technology to track the evolution of glaciers in East Antarctica. The area covers approximately 2,000 km of coastline It contains as much ice as the entire Greenland ice sheet.

By comparing historical aerial images with modern satellite data The researchers were able to determine whether the glaciers had retreated or advanced, and whether they had become thicker or thinner. The study shows that Not only has the ice remained stable, but it has increased slightly over the past 85 years, Which is partly due to increased snowfall.

January 29, 2024 Natural color image of Antarctica. Image: NASA

“We keep hearing about climate change and new melting records, so it’s reassuring to see an area of ​​ice that has been stable for almost a century,” says one graduate student. Mads Domgaardlead author of the study.

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But the researcher points out that The study also shows the first signs of changes in sea ice in front of the glacier. This could mean that stable glaciers in East Antarctica may shrink in the future.

“Our results also point to thinning sea ice, making the floating ice tongues of glaciers more vulnerable and unable to grow as much as we saw in early aerial photographs from 1937,” Domgaard says. “We know from other parts of Antarctica that the ocean plays a role.” “Very important in driving the massive and increasing melting we are seeing in West Antarctica, for example.”

Of 2,200 photographs taken from seaplanes in 1937, 130 were selected for analysis. The researchers combined historical images with modern satellite data to create 3D reconstructions of the glaciers.

The Norwegian aerial photographs were supplemented by 165 aerial photographs of the same glaciers from Australian studies conducted between 1950 and 1974. This allowed researchers to study the evolution of glaciers over different time periods and calculate historical ice flow rates for selected glaciers.

Compared with recent data, ice flow speeds have not changed. While some glaciers have diminished over shorter periods of 10 to 20 years, they have remained stable or grown little over the long term, suggesting a system in equilibrium.

“By comparing historical aerial photographs with modern satellite data, we have gained important insights into glaciers that we would not have otherwise obtained. I think it is great that these old images are being used in new research almost 100 years after they were taken.” “. Anders Björk from the University of Copenhagen, who leads the group working with historical images.

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The possibility of a significant rise in sea levels

The Antarctic ice sheet is witnessing… The possibility of a very rapid and significant rise in sea level More and more attention by researchers. Unlike Greenland, very little was known about Antarctic glaciers until the 1990s, when the first good satellite observations became available.

“The first observations of glaciers are of great value because they give us a unique look at the evolution of ice in a changing climate and at the question of whether current changes in ice go beyond the normal cycle of glacier advance and retreat.” Domgard explains.

According to the researcher, robust, long-term data are crucial for accurate predictions of future glacial development and sea level rise, and this study provides new insights into a vast region of East Antarctica. “Longer glacier time series improve our ability to create more accurate models of future glacial changes because the models are based on historical observations,” Björk concludes.


Mads Domgaard et al., Early flight images reveal 85 years of glaciers growing and settling in East AntarcticaNature Communications (2024). doi: 10.1038/s41467-024-48886-x