France: Scientists can now tap into a flow of new data that will help to determine exactly how Earth’s ice is changing. European Space Agency’s (ESA) CryoSat Mission Manager Tommaso Parrinello announced the release of CryoSat satellite data. He said, “As of today, the international science community will have free and easy access to all of the measurements from CryoSat. This will amount to a unique dataset to determine the impact climate change is having on Earth’s ice fields.”
Satellites have already revealed that the extent of sea ice in the Arctic is diminishing, but CryoSat will complete the picture by providing detailed information on how the thickness of ice, both on land and floating in the polar oceans, is changing over time.
Together, information on ice extent and ice thickness will provide clear evidence of how the volume of ice is changing.
CryoSat carries a sophisticated radar altimeter that can measure the thickness of sea ice down to centimetres and detect changes in ice sheets, particularly around the edges where icebergs are calved from the vast ice sheets that cover Greenland and Antarctica.
It is the ability to detect minute changes in these two different types of ice that sets the CryoSat mission apart, along with the fact that the satellite’s orbit takes it closer to the poles than earlier missions.
A key step towards mapping sea-ice thickness is being able to differentiate between the radar signals the satellite receives from the ice floes and those from the narrow cracks, or ‘leads’, of open water between the ice.