GOCE reveals what’s going on deep below Antarctica
10 December 2019
Despite having completed its mission in orbit over six years ago, ESA's GOCE gravity mapper continues to yield new insights into our planet. Thanks to this extraordinary satellite, scientists now have a much clearer view of the secrets that lie deep below one of the most remote parts of the world: Antarctica. And while the vast expanse of white ice above may appear relatively uniform, it is a very different story below the bedrock.
A layer of ice up to 4 km thick, fierce winds and temperatures that can reach –60°C make Antarctica one of the harshest environments on Earth. This, coupled with the remoteness of this vast icy continent, means that it is difficult and expensive to carry out scientific research, particularly into what lies beneath deep below. Thankfully, data collected from space can offer information that field experiments alone cannot.
A paper, published recently in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, describes how scientists used gravity data from the GOCE satellite mission along with seismological models to reveal unprecedented insight into the crust and upper mantle, otherwise known as the lithosphere, below this frozen continent.