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Glaciers of Antarctica

Professional Paper 1386-B

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Abstract

Of all the world?s continents Antarctica is the coldest, the highest, and the least known. It is one and a half times the size of the United States, and on it lies 91 percent (30,109,800 km3) of the estimated volume of all the ice on Earth. Because so little is known about Antarctic glaciers compared with what is known about glaciers in populated countries, satellite imagery represents a great leap forward in the provision of basic data. From the coast of Antarctica to about 81?south latitude, there are 2,514 Landsat nominal scene centers (the fixed geographic position of the intersection of orbital paths and latitudinal rows). If there were cloud-free images for all these geographic centers, only about 520 Landsat images would be needed to provide complete coverage. Because of cloud cover, however, only about 70 percent of the Landsat imaging area, or 55 percent of the continent, is covered by good quality Landsat images. To date, only about 20 percent of Antarctica has been mapped at scales of 1:250,000 or larger, but these maps do include about half of the coastline. The area of Antarctica that could be planimetrically mapped at a scale of 1:250,000 would be tripled if the available Landsat images were used in image map production. This chapter contains brief descriptions and interpretations of features seen in 62 carefully selected Landsat images or image mosaics. Images were chosen on the basis of quality and interest; for this reason they are far from evenly spaced around the continent. Space limitations allow less than 15 percent of the Landsat imaging area of Antarctica to be shown in the illustrations reproduced in this chapter. Unfortunately, a wealth of glaciological and other features of compelling interest is present in the many hundreds of images that could not be included. To help show some important features beyond the limit of Landsat coverage, and as an aid to the interpretation of certain features seen in the images, 38 oblique aerial photographs have been included. Again, these represent only a small fraction of the large number of aerial photographs now available in various national collections. The chapter is divided into five geographic sections. The first is the Transantarctic Mountains in the Ross Sea area. Some very large outlet glaciers flow from the East Antarctic ice sheet through the Transantarctic Mountains to the Ross Ice Shelf. Byrd Glacier, one of the largest in the world, drains an area of more than 1,000,000 km2. Next, images from the Indian Ocean sector are discussed. These include the Lambert Glacier- Amery Ice Shelf system, so large that about 25 images must be mosaicked to cover its complex system of tributary glaciers. Shirase Glacier, a tidal outlet glacier in the sector, flows at a speed of 2.5 km a-l. About 200 km inland and 200 km west of Shirase Glacier lie the Queen Fabiola (?Yamato?) Mountains, whose extensive exposures of `blue ice? lay claim to being the world?s most important meteorite-collecting locality, with more than 4,700 meteorite fragments discovered since 1969. The Atlantic Ocean sector is fringed by ice shelves into which flow large ice streams like Jutulstraumen, Stancomb-Wills, Slessor, and Recovery Glaciers. Filchner and Ronne Ice Shelves together cover an area two-thirds the size of Texas. From the western margin of the Ronne Ice Shelf, the north-trending arc of the Antarctic Peninsula, with its fjord and alpine landscape and fringing ice shelves, stretches towards South America. The Pacific Ocean sector begins with the Ellsworth Mountains, which include the highest peaks (Vinson Massif at 4,897 m) in Antarctica. The area between the Ellsworth Mountains and the eastern margin of the Ross Ice Shelf is fringed with small ice shelves and some major outlet glaciers. One of these, Pine Island Glacier, was found from comparing 1973 and 1975 images to have an average ice-front velocity of 2.4 km a-l. This part of Antarctica

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Glaciers of Antarctica
Series title:
Professional Paper
Series number:
1386
Chapter:
B
Edition:
Version 1.0, Reprint
Year Published:
1988
Language:
ENGLISH
Description:
p. B1-B278; 2 plates in pocket
Larger Work Type:
Report
Larger Work Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Larger Work Title:
Satellite Image Atlas of Glaciers of the World