How laser-fir­ing satel­lite has ice sheets in its sights

The Scottish 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.

The height of the ice is de­ter­mined by how long it takes a tiny frac­tion of these beams to be bounced back and re­ceived again by the satel­lite.

It will en­able sci­en­tists to gar­ner a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of how the con­ti­nen­tal ice sheets of Antarc­tica and Green­land and ice on the Arc­tic Ocean are thin­ning.

Dr Tom Neu­mann, deputy project sci­en­tist for ICESat-2, said: ‘An el­e­va­tion change of just a cen­time­tre 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.’

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