Antarctic glaciers to honour ‘satellite heroes’

Antarctic glaciers to honour 'satellite heroes'

A series of glaciers in the Antarctic are being named after the satellites that have revealed the changing state of the White Continent.

The spacecraft, from Europe, the US and Japan, have all contributed important observational data which confirms a picture of accelerating ice loss.

They include the pioneering American Landsat series of satellites and Europe’s new Sentinel fleet.

Their namesake glaciers run parallel to each other in Palmer Land.

This is a sector on the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula.

It’s an area studied by Dr Anna Hogg, who was frustrated that the glaciers she was looking at were known only by their coordinates on a map.

The Leeds University scientist proposed the satellite names idea to the UK Antarctic Place-names Committee.

Its members accepted the suggestion, which was then formally approved by the Government of the British Antarctic Territory.

“Satellites are the heroes in my science of glaciology. They’ve totally revolutionised our understanding, and I thought it would be brilliant to commemorate them in this way,” Dr Hogg told BBC News.

Just last month, she and colleagues from the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling (CPOM) used the full history of height measurements made by Europe’s orbiting radar altimeters to show that almost a quarter of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is now losing more ice than it can replenish through new snowfall.

The glacier names will in future be used on all British maps, charts and publications; and they have also been put up to the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) for inclusion in its international directory, or gazetteer.

This should lead to all other nations using the names, too. Safe operations require that there is no confusion over what a location is called during an emergency.

 

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