June 9, 2023

NASA Approves Continuation of ICESat-2 Space Laser After 3+ Years of Big Results

Since its launch in September 2018, ICESat-2 has collected data and influenced research study on our changing Earth– varying from ice to boreal forests and tropical beaches to urban areas. Away, we saw changes in the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets, the impact of the ocean consuming away at the ice and melting the surface in Greenland.
ICESat-2 determines the top of the snow, CryoSat-2 identifies the interface of snow and ice, and together the information informs us not just the snow depth however the sea ice density. After 3 years of ICESat-2 winter measurements, we saw the changes in the ice– and those modifications werent small.”
” Its providing us with info about melt ponds on sea ice, which are roughly the sizes of Olympic swimming pools– and ICESat-2 can determine their depth from space.

Illustration of NASAs Land, cloud and ice Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2), an objective to determine the altering height of Earths ice. Credit: NASA
Melt Ponds, Summer Ice, and More: Space Laser Measures Changing Earth
Since 2003, Arctic sea ice has actually lost about a third of its volume. On the opposite side of the world, at the other pole, brand-new glacial lakes were discovered deep below the surface area of Antarctic ice. And at latitudes in between, altering water levels in reservoirs exposed human influences.
Those are simply a few of the 100-plus new discoveries made with precise height data from the 12 trillion laser measurements gathered from NASAs Land, cloud and ice Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2).
Considering that its launch in September 2018, ICESat-2 has actually collected data and motivated research study on our altering Earth– ranging from ice to tropical beaches and boreal forests to metropolitan locations. Before launch, objective science employee discussed what they hoped it would assist us comprehend. After successfully finishing its three-year primary objective, the mission now has the thumbs-up to continue operations, and these ice experts share what it has actually found.

ICESat-2 measurements supply an extraordinary level of accuracy as it determines Earths surface, including the Antarctic ice sheet seen here. Credit: NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center/ Kate Ramsayer
Ice and Beyond
Alex Gardner, NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California
” Im genuinely astonished at the engineering of ICESat-2. Were counting private photons bouncing off the surface area of Earth– with extraordinary precision. And the science that is flowing from it is amazing. Away, we saw modifications in the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets, the impact of the ocean consuming away at the ice and melting the surface area in Greenland.
” But what has likewise truly stood apart is the variety of clinical fields using ICESat-2. It spans ocean science, hydrology, the cryosphere, the biosphere– I understood there would be a lot of ways of using the information, however I dont think I anticipated how quickly that would happen. Im looking forward to the tsunami of studies coming.”
A glacier on the Antarctic Peninsula streams into the Bellingshausen Sea, as seen from a flight of the Operation IceBridge air-borne objective, utilized to confirm and calibrate ICESat-2 information. Credit: NASA/ Kate Ramsayer
Melt in Antarctica
Brooke Medley, NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland
” I think among the coolest things weve seen is melt ponds in Antarctica. It gets your brain jogging– if we could instantly identify individual ponds and determine their depth, it could tell us about the liquid water storage at the surface area of the ice sheet, which is among the most difficult things to estimate at that big a scale.
” Thats a cool thing about ICESat-2– the scales at which you can observe processes ranges from very small, like snow blowing around, all the method as much as the whole ice sheet.”
Summertime Ice
Nathan Kurtz, NASA Goddard
” In the last few decades, Arctic sea ice that used to last through the summer seasons hasnt been enduring. And ICESat-2 works surprisingly well in summer seasons, given the clouds and melt ponds. We can track the thickness of sea ice into the melt season, and figure out whats causing the melt more definitively.
” A great deal of individuals have an interest in sea ice predictions, and whether over a summer the Arctic will be essentially without sea ice. ICESat-2 helps us say with self-confidence whats happening.”
Precision & & Precision from the Get-go
Kelly Brunt, NASA Goddard and the National Science Foundation
” ICESat-2 was accurate and precise right out of the gate. Paired with that, it has excellent pointing understanding and pointing control, which means we intend to hit a spot and we struck it.
” So when we repeat orbits to determine how things change in time, we can get a much better sense of things like the grounding zone of ice shelves, where the ice meets the ocean. We can better determine where those are, and likewise see the effect of tides on the drifting ice.”
An opening in the sea ice cover north of Greenland is partially filled in by much smaller sea ice rubble and floes, as seen during an Operation IceBridge flight in September 2019. Credit: NASA/Linette Boisvert
Snow on Ice on Water
Ron Kwok, University of Washington
” ICESat-2 is a wonderful instrument, due to the fact that we have such a substantial enhancement in resolution. It lets us see these narrow leads, the open water between floes of sea ice.
” Just as essential, we can now combine it with CryoSat-2 to determine snow depth. ICESat-2 measures the top of the snow, CryoSat-2 spots the user interface of snow and ice, and together the data tells us not simply the snow depth but the sea ice density as well. After three years of ICESat-2 winter season measurements, we saw the modifications in the ice– and those changes werent little.”
Frozen flood ponds on the sea ice, as seen during an Operation IceBridge flight in March 2017. Credit: NASA/Jeremy Harbeck
A New Level of Detail
Sinead Farrell, University of Maryland, College Park
” The level of detail we can receive from ICESat-2 is something weve never achieved from another satellite. Its a video game changer.
” Its supplying us with details about melt ponds on sea ice, which are approximately the sizes of Olympic swimming pools– and ICESat-2 can measure their depth from space. Due to the fact that it enables us to understand how multiyear ice is melting out in summertime, this is enormous. We need to observe melt ponds to understand how vulnerable the ice is to additional loss.”
Finding Climate Impacts
Thorsten Markus, NASA Headquarters in Washington
” ICESat-2 has actually exceeded what it was designed for. Im looking forward to extending the time series to get monthly data of polar areas for many years– something we havent had.
” As we enter 5, six, seven years of data, we can actually see climate signals beyond what is because of weather. Then it ends up being really interesting, and we can better understand how environment is affecting the poles.”