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U of M scientists create first high-res map of Antarctica

Scientists at the University of Minnesota have just released the most accurate map yet of the Antarctica terrain.

ST. PAUL, Minn. - The place at the bottom of the world, Antarctica, is sometimes forgotten.

But now it's in the spotlight, thanks to the Polar Geospatial Center at the University of Minnesota. Because we now have a clear picture of what the massive ice sheet looks like.

"We're talking about one of the seven continents here, that's what we are mapping," said Paul Morin, director for the Polar Geospatial Center at the U of M. "We are mapping a continent. We did this with our collaborators at Ohio State University. This is a continent that is 15 million square kilometers, so 50 percent larger than the lower 48."

The resolution captured by satellites is 8 meters in size, so small enough to show buildings and help determine the height of a mountain. The best way to think of this project is like taking a snapshot of the continent.

"What we've done here is the same thing that a parent does with their 7-year-old child," Morin said. "They put them against the door frame and mark height and they bring them back next year, next year and next year. We've done that for an entire continent."

It took two years to generate this map. Morin and his team hope that it will be used for decades to come, to measure changes in the Antarctic ice sheet and also for aircrafts to safely navigate the area.

To see the High Resolution Map for yourself, visit Reference Elevation Model of Antarctica.

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