Robot produces first 3D map of Antarctic sea ice (w/video)
(Nanowerk News) Scientists from eight countries (Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, New Zealand and the United States) have created the first detailed 3D map of the underside of sea ice in Antarctica.
Working aboard the Australian Antarctic Division's Aurora Australis under SIPEX II (the 2nd Sea Ice Physics and Ecosystem eXperiment, a long-term misison to map Antarctic sea ice), the team deployed an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) to map the topography of the ice from below. Using multibeam sonar, the robot submarine was able to create a clear picture of the inverted ‘mountains and valleys’ in the sea ice, giving a clearer picture of its volume and thickness.
By combining this with data from satellites and helicopter surveys, the scientists are getting a better understanding how the sea ice is changing over time due to the changing climate. This in turn will give insight into how climate change is affecting not only the sea ice and the ocean, but also the ecosystems influenced by sea ice and the biota that inhabit them. Changes in sea ice thickness also influence the formation of cold, salty Antarctic bottom water, which drives the global thermohaline circulation and influences global climate.