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ESA, NASA team up to measure Arctic sea ice

5 April 2012

NASA Arctic mission

The scientists from NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) have joined in a collaborative mission, known as CryoVEx, to measure ice sheets along the Arctic sea.

With data from the CryoSat-2 research satellite, the scientists created complete maps of sea-ice thickness and ocean passage in the region.

ESA and NASA used aircraft equipped with sensors and airborne instruments including cameras to visually record the sea ice and laser scanners to clearly record the height of the ice.

The aircraft were also equipped with an ice-thickness sensor known as EM-Bird with ESA's radar altimeter ASIRAS and NASA's snow and Ku-band radars, the measurements of which will be similar to CryoSat's but in higher resolution.

The Technical University of Denmark's National Space Institute scientist, Rene Forsberg, said: "Data from a particular instrument provides one piece of the puzzle."

"Through experience in combining gravity and altimetry measurements over ice sheets, I've found that by combining measurements from different instruments you can solve the puzzle more easily and move forward," Forsberg said.

ESA's CryoSat satellite, in orbit for two years, is equipped with a radar altimeter to examine changes in the thickness of ice.

The validation of readings acquired from space involves comparing the satellite data with measurements taken at the same time on the ground and from the air.

The scientific team from Europe, the US and Canada anticipate that the combination of flight time and the results will provide enhanced accuracy of global ice-thickness trends measured by CryoSat and NASA's IceSat.

The information is intended to further enhance knowledge on the impact of climate change on the Arctic environment.

 

Image: The collected data will provide enhanced knowledge on the impact of climate change on the Arctic region. Photo: NASA / M. Studinger