Early Radar Maps of Antarctica Digitized

Nature: “Glaciologists will soon have a treasure trove of data for exploring how Antarctica’s underbelly has changed over nearly half a century. An international team of researchers has scanned and digitized 2 million records from pioneering aeroplane radar expeditions that criss-crossed the frozen continent in the 1960s and 1970s. […] The digitized data extend the record of changes at the bottom of the ice sheet, such as the formation of channels as Antarctica’s ice flows, by more than two decades.” (Modern radar mapping of Antarctica apparently only began in the 1990s.) [WMS]

British Antarctic Survey Remeasures Mount Hope

Mount Hope, 18 March 2004. Photo by Euphro. Creative Commons licence.

This BBC News article leads with a reasonably interesting geographic fact: that Mount Hope, on the Antarctic Peninsula, has been remeasured at 3,239 metres, making it the tallest mountain in territory claimed by the United Kingdom. (Its location is also claimed by Argentina and Chile.) But it’s really about the British Antarctic Survey, who are using stereographic satellite data to create more accurate maps of Antarctica’s mountains for pilots operating on the continent. BAS press release. [Kenneth Field]

Crowdsourced Satellite Image Analysis

There are many circumstances where the amount of data vastly exceeds the ability to process and analyze it—and computers can only do so much. Enter crowdsourcing. Steve Coast points to Digital Globe’s Tomnod project, which basically crowdsources satellite image analysis. In the case of the current project to  map the presence of Weddell seals on the Antarctic Peninsula and the ice floes of the Weddell Sea, users are given an image tile and asked to indicate whether there are seals in the image. It’s harder than it looks, but it’s the kind of routine task that most people can do—many hands, light work and all that—and it helps researchers focus their attention where it needs focusing. (A similar campaign for the Ross Sea took place in 2016.)

Another ongoing campaign asks users to identify flooded and damaged infrastructure and trash heaps in post-Hurricane Maria Puerto Rico.

The Penguin Projection

“A world map tells a lot about the person who has made it, or about the market it is made for,” says Frans Blok. The edges of equatorial projections are determined so as to put the map’s audience at the centre of the map: European maps put the Bering Strait at the edges, Australian and Asian maps the Atlantic, American maps break Asia in two. If, however, only the polar regions were habitable—or if you were making a map for penguins—you might use a polar projection centred on Antarctica.

Frans Blok

“And no, for European use this map is less suitable. But there aren’t that many penguins living here,” says Blok. [ICA]