Ice flows like liquid water — just slower. A NASA-led team in 2011 created the first-ever complete map of Antarctica’s ice flow, revealing how the massive ice sheet moves ice from its interior to glaciers that feed the sea. The ice sheet is of particular interest to glaciologists because some of its glaciers are showing signs of rapid change in recent decades and are a growing source of concern for global sea level rise.
“This is like seeing a map of all the oceans’ currents for the first time. It’s a game changer for glaciology,” said Eric Rignot of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and the University of California (UC), Irvine, lead author on the paper that presented the mapping results.
In this image, created from satellite radar data, the fastest ice flows are represented by blues, purples and hot pinks. The slowest flows are represented by yellows and pale oranges. The more active region of the continent is West Antarctica, where many glaciers are accelerating. East Antarctica is larger, less explored and more stable.