ESA and NASA join forces on climate mission to measure thickness of Antarctic sea ice – Technology News, Firstpost


The European Space Agency (ESA) and its National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the American equivalent, have come together in an effort to measure the thickness of Antarctic sea ice.

Space agencies decided to carry out the mission by aligning two satellites designed for the job – Europe's CryoSat-2 spacecraft and the ICESat-2 mission, reported BBC.

Currently, the old climatology models used to measure the likely depth of snow cover work reasonably well in the north, but do not produce the results expected in the south.


The orbit of the CryoSat-2 spacecraft was raised in just under a kilometer. This will allow the spacecraft to increase the number of observations coinciding with the ICESat-2 mission.


Currently, the floating layers of ice in the extreme south present some difficulties when measuring its vertical dimension. The heavy snow that accumulates on the floating ice hides its thickness. If the stacked snow is significant in quantity, it can even push Antarctic sea ice under water.

The partnership between ESA and NASA will simplify the process of measuring the thickness of Antarctic sea ice. It is expected that the two satellites used in the project will produce better results due to their different capabilities.

ICESat-2 uses a laser to measure the distance from the Earth's surface. In the process, it measures the height of objects. Currently, the satellite orbits the Earth at an altitude of 500 km. On the other hand, CryoSat-2, which is an orbital altitude of 720 km, makes use of radar to measure height. It penetrates much deeper into the snow cover than the laser before it recovers.


"In the future, we will be able to more accurately estimate snow cover and therefore more accurately estimate the thickness of sea ice. In the Arctic, this will reduce our errors. In Antarctica, I think we still don't really know just how cool this can be. " BBC quoted Dr Rachel Tilling, NASA's radar and laser altimetry scientist, said.


According, Antarctic sea ice generally reaches its maximum annual extension in the middle of late September and reaches its annual minimum in late February or early March.

The surface of the ocean around Antarctica freezes in winter and melts every summer.

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