Paris, France: According to the latest findings from the European Space Agency’s (ESA) ice-measuring satellite, CryoSat; over the last two years Antarctica’s blue ice sheet has become thicker. In a press release, ESA announced that the measurements from their 2010-2011 campaigns showed the height of Antarctic ice to be an average of nine centimetres higher than the measurements obtained during the 2008-2009 campaigns.
CryoSat took its measurements from a particularly harsh area of land in Antarctica, a plateau known as the ‘blue ice region’ on the edge of the continent. This region is unique due to its vast expanses of polished blue ice, devoid of snow.
Scientists from the Technical University (TU) of Dresden braved extreme weather to map subtle changes in the height of the ice over 2500 sq km. The measurements were taken on the ground with sophisticated GPS equipment towed by snowmobiles.
Scientists from the Alfred Wegner Institute also took measurements from an aircraft with an instrument that simulates CryoSat’s radar altimeter.
After analysis of the data collected in the campaigns, and the fact that other datasets going back 20 years are available, the scientists determined changes in the height of the ice.
Reinhard Dietrick from TU Dresden stated, “This interesting result showing the reversal in height is thanks to the campaigns before the launch of CryoSat in 2010. The results are, of course, preliminary but with this reversal in mind, it would be very interesting to see if the increase in height remains in the future.”
CryoSat is an ESA programme to monitor variations in the extent and thickness of polar ice through use of a satellite in a low Earth orbit.