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Climate change is changing the shape of the earth. But what would an ice-free world look like? NASA has an idea. In 2013, NASA created Bedmap2, a detailed topographical model, or series of rasterised products, showing the bedrock landscape beneath frigid Antarctica and the elevation of the sea. With radar technology and detailed data collection from 25 million measurements, Bedmap2 offers insights into a changing world.

The original bedmap was created back in 2001 followed by the Bedmap2 which will use more data to create a body of knowledge around the Antarctic region south of 60 degrees south latitude. Surface elevation, ice thickness and bedrock topography data from NASA and the British Antarctic Observatory help paint a detailed picture of the hidden world. 98% of Antarctica is  covered in ice, but underneath it are many rocky mountains and valleys. Using radar technology known as a multi-channel coherent radar depth sounder, researchers found the deepest point on the continent at 9,416 feet below sea level under Bird Glacier. 

"The ice sheet grows from snow and spreads outward and thins under its own weight, like honey poured onto a plate," Sophie Nowicki of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center said in a statement. “The shape of the layer is the most important unknown and affects how the ice flows. Simply changing the way you hold the plate changes how the honey spreads across the plate.” 

Bedrock geometries are of particular importance in calculating the impact of climate change on Antarctica and the world. 6.4 million cubic miles of ice could raise sea levels by 190 feet. In fact, sea levels are already rising at an alarming rate. Researchers are already working on Bedmap3 to better understand the coldest continent in our changing world. 

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