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Antarctica's Ice Flow Fully Mapped For the First Time 90

Posted by samzenpus
from the check-out-all-that-ice dept.
tvlinux writes "Antarctica is a big continent, so mapping all of its ice flow isn't exactly a piece of cake. But for the first time scientists have been able to get the complete picture of the southernmost continent's ice flow, from the South Pole to the shoreline. From the article: '"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. Rignot is lead author of a paper about the ice flow published online Thursday in Science Express. "We are seeing amazing flows from the heart of the continent that had never been described before."'"
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Antarctica's Ice Flow Fully Mapped For the First Time

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  • "The map points out something fundamentally new: that ice moves by slipping along the ground it rests on," said Thomas Wagner.

    The story seems to suggest this is new information. Yet this is standard knowledge anywhere there aer icefields and the glaciers that flow from them.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by chromas (1085949)
      No, prior to this breakthrough, it was believed the ice just grew legs and walked off.
      • by c0lo (1497653)
        Even more, the common belief was that it walked across the ground (not along)
  • by tp1024 (2409684) on Monday August 22, 2011 @03:00AM (#37165398)
    There was a time, way back, when geologists would have presented this kind of finding and said:

    "We finally have a map of how the ice in Antarctica moves. We don't quite know exactly why it moves the way it does, but at least now we know some of the questions we should ask ourselves."

    Instead we get scaremongering drivel along the lines of: "That's critical knowledge for predicting future sea level rise. It means that if we lose ice at the coasts from the warming ocean, we open the tap to massive amounts of ice in the interior."
    • by c0lo (1497653)

      There was a time, way back, when geologists would have presented this kind of finding and said: "We finally have a map of how the ice in Antarctica moves. We don't quite know exactly why it moves the way it does, but at least now we know some of the questions we should ask ourselves." Instead we get scaremongering drivel along the lines of: "That's critical knowledge for predicting future sea level rise. It means that if we lose ice at the coasts from the warming ocean, we open the tap to massive amounts of ice in the interior."

      Did it scare you?

    • by KeensMustard (655606) on Monday August 22, 2011 @03:44AM (#37165526)
      This would only be scaremongering if it weren't true.
      1. Have you evidence that it is not?
      2. Surmising (on presently available evidence) that sea rises due to melting ice is likely, how can talking about it be bad? Surely more knowledge is a good thing?
      • by tp1024 (2409684) on Monday August 22, 2011 @04:48AM (#37165670)
        > This would only be scaremongering if it weren't true.

        No. If you keep repeating "truths" out of all proportion, it is still scaremongering. That's why there are so many more people who feel perfectly fine driving a car to the airport and getting scared as soon as they board the plane - than there are people who are a paranoid, nervous wreak behind the driving wheel and relax upon boarding the much safer airplane (as it is indeed the case).

        All that because news about airplane crashes are presented way out of proportion. If any passenger airplane crashes down anywhere on this globe - be it in Washington State, Siberia or Lagos, Nigeria - you'll know it. And they are all real. Not one is counterfeit or a fabrication. It just so happens, that 100% are being reported.

        If there were as many dead people in airplane crashes as in car accidents, you'd need to have one major plane crash each day with over 100 dead people on average in the USA alone! Yet, much less than 1% of the car accidents with dead people are reported.

        That's not to say anybody would be lying about the number of car accidents - but the biased reporting is very obviously having the effect of making airplanes appear much more dangerous than they actually are. The worst is, however, that it makes people talk and fight like idiots about airplane safety whenever there is a crash - but they all forget about the dreadful danger that car traffic is. There are far over a million dead people in car accidents each year worldwide. But nobody cares.
        • No. If you keep repeating "truths" out of all proportion, it is still scaremongering.

          Thanks for acknowledging the threat, even if only implicitly.
          What would be a disproportionate response to the threat of sea level rise? What would be a proportionate response?
          What exactly is wrong with talking about real threats?

          • The real threat from sea level rise is zero. It would take a long, long time for all of that ice to melt; generations most likely. People will just naturally move inland as the water level rises. It's not like you're going to wake up in your seventh floor apartment one morning and find out that your balcony would now make a good dock.
            • by JoshuaZ (1134087)

              The real threat from sea level rise is zero. It would take a long, long time for all of that ice to melt; generations most likely. People will just naturally move inland as the water level rises. It's not like you're going to wake up in your seventh floor apartment one morning and find out that your balcony would now make a good dock.

              There's a lot wrong with this. It doesn't require a full melt for the sea level to rise a few feet. Even a two or three foot rise could have devastating consequences. My parents have a small house in a small town in New England. There house is on a hill and so is pretty safe. But many of the other houses in the area are only a few feet above the high-tide line. If the sea level went up 2 or 3 feet, then when the sea gets really high during storms there would be real damage. Furthermore, some buildings have

              • Again. Time scales. It's going to take hundreds of years to rise that 2-3 feet. People will have moved on long ago.
                • by JoshuaZ (1134087)
                  Two feet per a century is one of the more conservative estimates http://epa.gov/climatechange/effects/coastal/slrmaps_probability.html [epa.gov]. Even one foot by 2050 could be potentially devastating. 3 feet in a hundred years (which is not at an extreme estimate) will be economically devastating. Areas like Tuvalu are already running into problems.
                • by riverat1 (1048260)

                  There are people alive today who will see 3-6 feet of sea level rise by 2100 if current projections are correct.

                  • by HiThere (15173)

                    Warning: I'm talking off the top of my head, and I'm no expert, but:

                    Which current projections? I would have put the range at 1-30 feet, though I guess I consider 3 feet more reasonable. Of course, It's hard to be specific since a lot of what the result is depends on what we do. (I think the 30 foot range was predicting massive use of shale-oil, and poor conservation/pollution controls. Which, unfortunately, isn't at all an unreasonable projection.)

                    N.B.: It's quite unlikely that China/India/etc. aren't

                    • by riverat1 (1048260)

                      Here [pik-potsdam.de] (PDF) is a 2009 paper on the subject. Check out Fig. 6 on page 5. The estimates for 2100 range from around 80 to 180 cm depending on the scenario. Of course there could be events that we can't foresee that would change that but more than 8-10 feet by 2100 seems to be beyond reasonable given what we currently know. If we keep on with business as usual though 30 feet might be possible by 2200.

                    • by riverat1 (1048260)

                      I should have included 80-1180 cm is 2.6-5.9 feet.

                    • by HiThere (15173)

                      If that "Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fourth Assessment
                      Report" is the one I heard of, many professionals were complaining because the predictions had been toned down to be more politically acceptable. OTOH that 30 foot projection was a wild outlier. Just about as much as the 1 foot projection. (I think that thermal expansion of the oceans accounted for that, and perhaps a bit more, without any ice melting needed.)

                • When you can see the tides 100+ miles inland, a few feet can pretty suddenly become a problem to a whole lot of people.

                  Try South Carolina...it's called 'The Low Country' for a reason.
            • by Fjandr (66656)

              The ice doesn't have to melt, it just has to calve.

              Let's talk in terms of inches then. The economic harm to NYC would be incredible, and could conceivably happen within a single person's lifetime.

              Do you know how much damage would have to be caused, in both economic and human terms, before the city of New York was abandoned wholesale? Katrina was bad, and they moved back into New Orleans. Unlike New York, most of that city is actually below sea level right this second.

              The threat is not zero unless there is n

            • by Arlet (29997)

              People will just naturally move inland as the water level rises

              I live in a low lying river delta, together with a few million other people. It's a very profitable region of the country, and I can assure you it's not going to be moved anytime soon.

              What happens instead is that the levee system will have to be upgraded, which means a $ multi billion investment. Or, worse, the threat isn't taken seriously enough, the upgrade is delayed, and the entire area is flooded during a huge storm surge.

        • by Culture20 (968837)

          No. If you keep repeating "truths" out of all proportion, it is still scaremongering. That's why there are so many more people who feel perfectly fine driving a car to the airport and getting scared as soon as they board the plane - than there are people who are a paranoid, nervous wreak behind the driving wheel and relax upon boarding the much safer airplane (as it is indeed the case).

          No, that has to do with the effect of feeling in control of a situation. People would feel safer on a big plane if they had access to the cockpit, knew the pilots, etc. They really wouldn't be (that's actually more dangerous). Strap them into the back seat of a car with extra seat belts and packing foam and they'll feel unsafe riding in a car too.

      • by hairyfeet (841228)

        I believe a giant asteroid is gonna hit the world in the next 50 years. Do you have evidence it is not? We have smaller ones hitting constantly, so how do you KNOW there isn't a bigger one out there? You don't.

        Therefor you should give me 50 beeelion dollars so that I can build my anti asteroid protection system. We can just tax everyone, we'll call it a "mineral derivative" and we can even set up markets to trade in them! [nakedcapitalism.com] Of course coming in on the ground floor I'll make a slight profit [telegraph.co.uk] but that's only fa

        • We do get our money back if a big one eludes your anti-asteroid protection system and wipes out all life on Earth, right?
        • I believe a giant asteroid is gonna hit the world in the next 50 years.

          Well that's confusing. First you guys tell me that sea level rise is real, but not a threat, and now you claim there is no evidence that it is real? Which of these contradictory statements represents your position?
          What do you think this does for your credibility?
          Maybe you guys want to take a moment, and you know, step outside and get your stories straight?

          Do you have evidence it is not? We have smaller ones hitting constantly, so how do you KNOW there isn't a bigger one out there? You don't.

          Learn the difference between assertion and an evidence backed conclusion. It is not necessary to counter assertion with scientific analysis. It IS h

    • We don't quite know exactly why it moves the way it does...

      Centrifugal force.. The earth's rotation flings the ice outward..

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "What happened to geology for its own sake?"

      People insisted that scientists show how their work is relevant to things of concern to taxpayers, because taxpayers are often funding part of the research. That pretty much sums up the reasons why the broader implications of a study get mentioned in journalistic reports no matter how interesting the regular scientific aspects are on their own. Science is the accumulation of a lot of smaller studies that incrementally add up. Individually they usually aren't so

      • by Gilmoure (18428)

        I live above 8,000 ft elevation. Not scared for myself but yeah, economic turmoil will suck. But hey, when's the last time you heard of any large organization taking all this 'scare mongering' into account? I mean, besides the U.S. military and all the major insurance companies. But other than them?

        • by AdamHaun (43173)

          To what extent does any large organization plan 50 years into the future? Predicting social, technological, and economic change is much harder than predicting climate change.

    • by Maritz (1829006)
      Are you emotionally invested in an anti-AGW point of view..? The article didn't strike me as scaremongering.
      • by tp1024 (2409684)
        Are you emotionally invested in a pro-AGW point of view? The article didn't strike me as particularly objective.

        I have never seen a volcanologist writing something like:
        "That's critical knowledge for predicting future volcanic eruptions. It means that if we lose the lava dome of the volcano, we open the tap to massive amounts of magma in the interior."

        Neither have I seen an astronomer writing something like:
        "That's critical knowledge for predicting future super-novae. It means that if we lose the car
        • by Dishevel (1105119)

          Climate Change!
          Climate Change!
          Do not call it Global Warming.
          If you call it global warming people will expect certain results.
          We all got together a few years ago and all agreed to change to Climate Change.
          Remember always say climate change as if it is something the earth has never seen before.

          Change is scary. Change is bad.

          Truth.
          I have no idea if people are changing the climate on a planetary scale.
          I have no idea how much is caused by the changing sun, volcanic activity, unknown earth processes and how much

        • by Fjandr (66656)

          I've heard volcanologists say almost exactly that, since a good number of people have no concept of how cap pressure works.

          Was the emphasis on "we" supposed to mean something important? Sounded to me like the writer was using the language in a technically incorrect, but incredibly common (even among those highly educated in anything but English), way and was quoted in that manner.

          It's highly unlikely the person being quoted meant the second "we" to actually mean that some human or humans were the sole actor

  • by msevior (145103) on Monday August 22, 2011 @03:19AM (#37165446)

    Congrats Guys!

    This is lovely Science. From this I guess we can map the underlying topology of Antarctica.

    • by ljw1004 (764174)

      I think we could already map the underlying topology just fine -- using radar, since it penetrates through the ice. I remember back in the early 1990s, on a school trip to the Scott Polar Research Institute, that they showed us a topological map of Antarctica.

  • An ice floe is a floating chunk of ice that is less than 10 kilometers (six miles) in its greatest dimension. Big whoop.
  • Why is a Jet Propulsion expert from NASA studying ice flows in Antarctica?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Part of the sikrit ZOG plot to move all the water to the Moon. Seriously -- most likely the person is an expert in fluid dynamics, which is a complex field with varying areas of application.
    • by vbraga (228124)

      Jet propulsion, ice flows, everything is a part of "Transport Phenomena" the sub field of classic physics that includes aerodynamics, for example.

    • by riverat1 (1048260)

      The data was collected by a coalition of researchers from around the world, mostly not from the US. The JPL merely took the data from many studies and using their super computers put it together in a comprehensive whole for Antarctica.

  • by ignavus (213578) on Monday August 22, 2011 @05:40AM (#37165786)

    Apparently up until now, a lot of the penguins wouldn't let the Google camera vans drive onto their glaciers.

    Now that's been sorted out (yep, Google bought out the penguins AND got Motorola into the bargain), so Google has been able to map the whole Antarctic glacial flow.

    A random picture from a glacier's street view is below:
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    (Sorry about the blizzard)

    • by Dinghy (2233934)

      Google has been able to map the whole Antarctic glacial flow.

      and all the wifi hotspots!

  • Fark had this on 20 Aug 2011 at 1:16 PM.

    Yes, I've been here since it was Chips and Dips, I survived the Hot Grits, but I missed when /. became the place where articles were posted days later.

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