The British Antarctic Survey has produced the sharpest image yet of Antarctica’s rugged topography. And as you can clearly see, without its mile-thick layer of ice, the polar continent would be an incredibly mountainous terrain, indeed.

In conjunction with NASA’s IceBridge mission, the BAS compiled this map by drawing upon millions of new measurements of the continent’s surface elevation, ice thickness, and bedrock topography. Called Bedmap2, it's a significant improvement on the previous collection of Antarctic data (go here to compare the two datasets by using a slider to switch between them).

Back in March, the BAS released this topographic color-schemed Bedmap2 image of Antarctica:

The new images are an attempt to give us a real-world perspective of the Antarctic landmass.

Researchers were able to tap into a decade’s worth of geophysical measurements taken from a variety of sources, including NASA's Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite, known as ICESat. Ice thickness data was collected by Operation IceBridge — a project in which airplanes were flown over the continent equipped with lasers to measure surface height and other features.


Interestingly, the new high-resolution image revealed several smaller features that were previously unknown to geologists. The scientists hope to use the data in an effort to better understand the mechanisms behind flowing and melting ice.

Images: NASA.