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Researchers develop technology to measure global warming

US: NASA funded USD 561,130 grant to a team of researchers at Rochester Institute of Technology. The team, led by Associate Professor John Kerekes, will develop a computer model. The model will be used by scientists examining the data from the NASA satellite ‘Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite-2′, which is expected to be launched in 2016. Digital maps are expected to be produced from the team’s computer model.
An important tool in developing the model is RIT’s Digital Imaging and Remote Sensing Imaging Generation computer programme, which Kerekes said is able to simulate how data will be generated and collected by the satellite.
Ice masses, which are often highly irregular in shape, can be measured by an orbiting satellite bombarding the mass with photons — bundles of energy that make up light — and then determining how long it takes for the photons to return to the satellite. All this happens within a fraction of a second. When these bundles of energy hit an elevated section of ice, they will take a slightly shorter time to bounce back than if they rebound from a depressed ice area.
“If you send a pulse of light down to a flat surface, you know it is coming back — based on the speed of light — at a precise instant. But if that surface has hills and valleys and crevices, the photons are going to bounce around and it will take longer to come back,” said Kerekes. Measurements of the melting ice will be recorded when the satellite — travelling at a height of about 450 miles — passes over the Arctic region, which includes Greenland, and when it’s over Antarctica, where large areas on the western side are melting.
Studying these changes over time provides a window into how much of an ice mass is melting.
University at Buffalo associate professor of geology Bea Csatho, who has an expertise in polar ice and holds a Ph.D. in geophysics, is also on the team. Csatho heads up the NASA science team for the 2016 satellite and was part of the team for a NASA satellite that orbited between 2003 and 2009 that also used the technology — commonly called LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) — that bounces bundles of photons to measure the ice.
But the technology has been improved so that the sensors on the satellite can pick up many more rebounding photons that the satellite will transmit. And scientists should have the advantage of the computer model that Kerekes’ team is developing.
Source: www.democratandchronicle.com