CryoSat taken to new heights for ice science

Sea ice performs an essential position in the international local climate. For illustration, it assists retain Earth’s electrical power stability when assisting continue to keep polar areas interesting by reflecting incident sunlight back again into house. It also retains the air neat by forming an insulating barrier involving the chilly air previously mentioned and the hotter ocean drinking water underneath. Credit history: J. Harbeck/IceBridge

Ice performs a critical role in maintaining Earth’s weather awesome, but our fast warming planet is taking its toll and ice is in normal decrease. For extra than 10 many years, ESA’s CryoSat has been returning vital information on how the peak of our fragile ice fields is altering. Nevertheless, to gain even much better perception, ESA has used the previous two weeks nudging CryoSat into a higher orbit to synchronise it with NASA’s ICESat-2 so that researchers can benefit from simultaneous measurements from diverse space sensors.

CryoSat carries a radar altimeter and NASA’s ICESat-2 carries a laser. Each instruments measure the peak of ice by emitting a sign and timing how extended it usually takes the signal to bounce off the ice surface area and return to the satellite. Understanding the top of the ice enables researchers to compute its thickness.

However, snow can develop up on top rated of the ice and can conceal the ice’s correct thickness.

While CryoSat’s radar penetrates by the snow layer and demonstrates closely off the ice under, ICESat-2’s laser demonstrates off the top of the snow layer. Mixing simultaneous satellite laser and radar readings indicates that snow depth can be measured specifically from room for the very first time.

Knowing the depth of the overlying snow will boost the precision of sea-ice thickness measurements and increase our knowledge of how snow and ice surfaces, with various physical properties, scatter back again the sign from the instruments.

ESA’s CryoSat mission manager, Tommaso Parrinello, states, “The concept of acquiring CryoSat’s orbit align with that of NASA’s ICESat-2 goes back again some decades now. It has taken a good deal of scheduling and is a important enterprise, a thing we haven’t done in advance of.

CRYO2ICE is a distinctive campaign that delivers together ESA’s CryoSat-2 and NASA’s ICESat-2 satellites. ESA is shifting the orbit of the CryoSat-2 satellite to align periodically with ICESat-2. This will deliver practically simultaneous radar and lidar measurements of the exact same ice. The campaign takes spot on 16–31 July 2020. The ensuing info will allow for experts to evaluate snow depth from house on both of those sea and land, enhancing the precision of sea-ice thickness measurements and ice-sheet elevation time collection. The measurements will also assistance map snow in excess of the poles and progress our understanding of currents in polar oceans, with further more applications expected in the review of inland waters and the atmosphere. Credits: ESA/NASA Goddard Flight Centre. Credit history: ESA/NASA Goddard Flight Centre

“Aligning CryoSat with ICESat-2 is like possessing a single satellite with two devices.”

ICESat-2 orbits at an altitude of all over 500 km and CryoSat made use of to orbit an altitude of close to 720 km.

Two months back, flight operators at ESA’s spacecraft procedure centre in Germany commenced carefully firing CryoSat’s thrusters to increase its orbit by just about 1 km to bring it into synch with ICESat-2.

Ignacio Clerigo, ESA’s CryoSat spacecraft operations supervisor, spelled out, “CryoSat orbit was a great deal better and slower than ICESat-2, so we couldn’t align them by owning them orbit in tandem. Alternatively, we raised CryoSat by 900 m by a collection of 15 precisely timed thruster burns. The two satellites will now overlap just about every 19th orbit of CryoSat and 20th orbit of ICESat-2.”

Due to the fact sea ice floats in the ocean, currents and wind go it all-around. Underneath typical conditions, the two satellites would just take measurements in excess of the similar locale a amount of hours apart, so it could be unique ice below their normal orbital paths.

  • CryoSat taken to new heights for ice science
    ESA’s Earth Explorer CryoSat mission is committed to specific checking of modifications in the thickness of maritime ice floating in the polar oceans and versions in the thickness of the vast ice sheets that blanket Greenland and Antarctica.The satellite flies at an altitude of just in excess of 700 km, reaching latitudes of 88° north and south, to maximise its coverage of the poles. Its main payload is an instrument called Artificial Aperture Interferometric Radar Altimeter (SIRAL). Past radar altimeters experienced been optimised for functions around the ocean and land, but SIRAL is the very first sensor of its variety made for ice, measuring adjustments at the margins of wide ice sheets and floating ice in polar oceans. Credit score: ESA/AOES Medialab
  • CryoSat taken to new heights for ice science
    NASA’s ICESat-2 (short for Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite) utilizes lasers and a incredibly exact detection instrument to measure the elevation of Earth’s floor. By timing how long it will take laser beams to travel from the satellite to Earth and back again, researchers can determine the height of glaciers, sea ice, forests, lakes and more – including the altering ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica. Credit history: NASA Goddard Flight Heart

Dr. Parrinello continued, “By boosting CryoSat’s orbit we obtain this sweet place wherever just about every 1.5 days the two satellites will go above regions of the polar locations close to the same time. These few minutes of virtually coincident measurements will be crucial for studying sea ice. CryoSat will keep on being in this orbit now till the mission is above.”

Josef Aschbacher, ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programmes, remarked, “Having both equally agency’s satellites aligned in orbit is a excellent example of our organisations performing together to bring higher positive aspects to science. These coincident measurements are likely to be quite crucial for scientists researching our transforming planet.”

Sea ice plays an important role in the global local climate. For example, it aids sustain Earth’s strength balance even though serving to hold polar regions cool by reflecting incident sunlight back into area. It also retains the air cool by forming an insulating barrier among the cold air over and the hotter ocean h2o underneath.

This new data could aid improve local weather models, especially for Antarctica. The models researchers at this time use to gauge snow depth when calculating sea ice function reasonably effectively for the Arctic, but a lot less so for the Antarctic.

It could also assistance deal with the hard task of measuring sea ice in summer time. In warmer climate, ponds of meltwater on the ice swamp the sign from CryoSat, but ICESat-2 has the precision to detect these ponds and differentiate involving them and the breaks involving floes of ice.

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