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December 19, 2022

Mapping The North Pole

Researchers at the Polar Geospatial Center at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities and the Ohio State University have recently released four more years of image data, creating the most detailed polar region terrain maps ever.

Credit: National Science Foundation

Mapping The North Pole

There are few corners of the earth that haven't been thoroughly explored. The logistical difficulties and environmental challenges have long made the poles intriguing targets, and now, new, higher resolution terrain maps have been created. We'll explore exactly what is at the North Pole in the U.S. National Science Foundation's "Discovery Files."

As early as the 16th century, it was believed the north pole was located at sea, in the 19th century that sea was called Polynya, today we call it the Arctic Ocean. Due to the ice conditions, a ship did not successfully reach the mark until 1977.

NSF supported researchers from the Polar Geospatial Center at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities and from the Ohio State University have released 4 more years of high-resolution imagery data creating the most detailed polar region terrain maps ever.

Millions of images from polar-orbiting satellites were fed into the Blue Waters supercomputer to create high-resolution topographic maps. All The land north of 60̊n latitude and south of 60̊s has now been covered.

Using these digital elevation models, scientists can see detailed topography of the land, including individual trees, lakes, roads, and buildings.

The information also proves extremely valuable in that it can be used to track the amplified effects of climate change found at the poles. Allowing researchers to keep an eye on glacier change, erosion, landslides, and flooding.

To hear more science and engineering news, including the researchers making it, subscribe to "NSF's Discovery Files" podcast.

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