Antarctica’s magnetic link to ancient neighbors

Asha Bajaj
3 min readMar 9, 2021

#ESA; #GeologyMysteries; #Antarctica; #AeromagneticData; #SwarmSatellite

New York/Canadian-Media: An international team of scientists has used, for the first time, magnetic data from European Space Agency (ESA)’s Swarm satellite mission together with aeromagnetic data to unravel the mysteries of the geology hidden beneath Antarctica’s kilometers-thick ice sheets, and link Antarctica better to its former neighbors, ESA news reports said.

Magnetic data on how Antarctica is linked to its ancient neighbors. Image credit: ESA website.

To understand global supercontinent cycles over billions of years that have shaped Earth’s evolution, it is important to understand both Antarctic sub-ice geology and how the solid Earth itself influences the Antarctic ice sheet above it.

The research team from Germany’s Kiel University, the British Antarctic Survey and National Institute of Oceanography and Applied Geophysics, and Witwatersrand University in South Africa has today published their findings in the Nature journal Scientific Reports.

It is revealed in the study that combining satellite and aeromagnetic data provides a key missing link to connect Antarctica’s hidden geology with formerly adjacent continents, namely Australia, India, and South Africa, keystones of Gondwana.

Owing to the satellites orbiting above which can see where humans cannot make it possible to collect both challenging and expensive geophysical information of the land below remote Antarctica, which is covered by a massive ice sheet.

Scientists are succeeding in understanding Earth’s least accessible continent due to magnetic data from the Swarm mission along with airborne measurements in sharing a long tectonic history — and that needs piecing together like a jigsaw puzzle.

The team processed aeromagnetic data from aircraft from over southern Africa, Australia, and Antarctica in a consistent manner with the help of Swarm satellite magnetic data.

Aeromagnetic data do not cover everywhere on Earth, so magnetic models complied from Swarm data help to fill the blanks, especially over India where aeromagnetic data are still not widely available. Furthermore, satellite data help to homogenize the airborne data, which were acquired over a period of more than 60 years with varying…

Asha Bajaj

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