New map reveals landscape beneath Greenland's ice sheet

December 14, 2017, British Antarctic Survey
New map reveals landscape beneath Greenland’s ice sheet
Greenland Basal Topography BedMachine v3 is published by British Antarctic Survey. Credit: British Antarctic Survey

A new map of what lies beneath the Greenland Ice Sheet is published this week (Thursday 14 December 2017). By providing scientists with the most comprehensive, high resolution and accurate picture of the bedrock and coastal seafloor, it reveals how the glaciers that drain from the Greenland Ice Sheet will contribute to future sea-level rise.

Produced by researchers at British Antarctic Survey (BAS), University of Bristol and University of California at Irvine (UCI), the printed map is unveiled this week at the American Geophysical Union meeting in New Orleans.

"Greenland Basal Topography BedMachine v3" is the new 1:3,500,000 scale map created from data collected by over 30 institutions.

BAS cartographer Dr Peter Fretwell, who was involved in producing the printed map, says:

"This new compilation of the 3-D landscape beneath the Greenland Ice Sheet provides the first seamless transition between the landmass and its adjoining seabed, and this gives scientists a bird's eye view of the fringes of Greenland which are experiencing the most changes.

"What's also surprising is that there is more ice and the bed is deeper in some places than previous maps suggest, so this means the total contribution from the ice sheet to rise would be 7.42 metres if it were to melt completely, slightly higher than previously calculated."

The data required to compile the map was collected from many sources – from satellite, airborne and ground-based radar and seabed mapping from research ships.

Dr Mathieu Morlighem from UCI, who was funded by NASA and the National Science Foundation (NSF) and who was lead author on a recent paper that presented the data behind this map, says:

"It's great to see our data being visualised in this way and being available to share it with other researchers. Ultimately, we hope this new map will help reduce the uncertainty in the predictions of the contribution of Greenland to , as the bed topography controls how the glaciers retreat. There are still some areas such as fjords for which we need more measurements, so we will keep improving this map as more data become available."

Glaciologist Prof Jonathan Bamber at University of Bristol who had a NERC-funded project to develop the printed map and data set says:

"It reveals that many glaciers that drain the Greenland ice sheet are thicker than previously estimated – up to 100 metres in places – it also shows they have complex fjord geometries that will control how they react to changes from the effects of warmer ocean currents. This map will improve our understanding of the ice-ocean interactions and how the ice will evolve in a changing climate."

Explore further: New Greenland maps show more glaciers at risk

Related Stories

New Greenland maps show more glaciers at risk

November 1, 2017

New maps of Greenland's coastal seafloor and bedrock beneath its massive ice sheet show that two to four times as many coastal glaciers are at risk of accelerated melting as had previously been thought.

The melting ice makes the sea around Greenland less saline

October 13, 2017

For the first time, ocean data from Northeast Greenland reveals the long-term impact of the melting of the Greenland ice sheet. The observed increase in freshwater content will affect the conditions in all Greenland fjords ...

NASA releases new, detailed Greenland glacier data

December 22, 2016

NASA's Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG) mission has released preliminary data on the heights of Greenland coastal glaciers from its first airborne campaign in March 2016. The new data show the dramatic increase in coverage ...

UCI, NASA reveal new details of Greenland ice loss

February 9, 2017

Less than a year after the first research flight kicked off NASA's Oceans Melting Greenland campaign, data from the new program are providing a dramatic increase in knowledge of how Greenland's ice sheet is melting from below. ...

Recommended for you

Researchers engineer a tougher fiber

February 22, 2019

North Carolina State University researchers have developed a fiber that combines the elasticity of rubber with the strength of a metal, resulting in a tougher material that could be incorporated into soft robotics, packaging ...

A quantum magnet with a topological twist

February 22, 2019

Taking their name from an intricate Japanese basket pattern, kagome magnets are thought to have electronic properties that could be valuable for future quantum devices and applications. Theories predict that some electrons ...

Solving the jet/cocoon riddle of a gravitational wave event

February 22, 2019

An international research team including astronomers from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has combined radio telescopes from five continents to prove the existence of a narrow stream of material, ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.