CryoSat: mission into the ice

A satellite misses the ice cover of our planet

Cryosat-2 in orbit ESA / AOS medialab
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On April 8, 2010 at 15:57 Central European Summer Time, the first ESA satellite to successfully measure polar ice has been successfully launched into orbit (video). CryoSat-2 is to provide crucial data on the disappearance of glaciers and ice surfaces and, above all, to answer a crucial question: how fast does the ice disappear?

The shrinking ice sheets of the polar regions are considered one of the first and most visible warning signs of global warming. For example, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) 4th Earth Climate Review quotes satellite data as showing that annual average sea ice surface in the Arctic has fallen 2.7 percent per decade since 1978. But also in the regulation of the climate and the sea level, the ice plays an important role. Any change in the ice fields has far-reaching consequences.

Of course, the ice caps of the Earth have been intensively observed for years - even from space, for example through the ESA Envisat satellite. But these measurements so far cover only part of the overall picture - the extent of the ice surfaces. In order to understand the effects of climate change on the sensitive polar regions, however, climate scientists must first of all know how the thickness of the land and sea ice masses changes.

CryoSat is the first satellite to do just that. Because he is equipped with instruments that can determine the thicknesses of ice more accurately than ever before. This much needed data completes the picture and allows climatologists to better understand the importance of the Earth system's ice masses.

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Nadja Podbregar
As of: 07.04.2010 Display