Laser-fir­ing satel­lite tar­gets ice sheets

The Mail on Sunday - - News -

A SATEL­LITE that mea­sures the Earth’s ice in more de­tail than ever be­fore was launched by Nasa yes­ter­day.

The ICESat-2 satel­lite has been de­signed to give sci­en­tists the best idea yet of how ice caps are chang­ing.

The satel­lite can mea­sure the height of ice to an ac­cu­racy of just one fifth of an inch us­ing laser beams fired 10,000 times a sec­ond.

Dr Tom Neu­mann, deputy project sci­en­tist for ICESat-2, said ac­cu­rate record­ings of ice height were es­sen­tial to cal­cu­lat­ing whether – and how fast – the Earth’s ice sheets are melt­ing.

He said: ‘An el­e­va­tion change of just a cen­time­tre (0.4 inch) over an ice sheet the scale of Antarc­tica rep­re­sents a tremen­dous amount of water ei­ther gained to or lost by the ice sheet – 140 gi­ga­tons worth.’

The ICESat-2 satel­lite was launched on a rocket from Van­denberg Air Force Base in Cal­i­for­nia.

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