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Measuring the ice

Antarctica’s ice sheets have built up over millions of years and store 70% of the world’s fresh water.

All about ice sheets

When new snow falls on the surface it doesn’t melt, but gradually builds up over time. Eventually, the weight of the snow squeezes out the air in the layers of snow below until they turn into ice. Gradually, these layers become part of the ice sheets, storing 70% of the world’s fresh water. The sheer weight of the ice pushes down the land beneath by as much as 500 metres!

The amount of ice in Antarctica’s ice sheets is important to us all. By measuring the volume of ice scientists can detect signs of melting from global warming.

You can download a bird’s eye view and a cross-section through the continent to find out more about Antarctica’s ice sheets.

Fieldcamp on West Antarctic ice sheet in strong winds
Geophysics on West Antarctic ice sheet