Science

CryoSat maps ice shelf on the transfer



It’s now nearly 10 years since ESA’s CryoSat was launched. All through its decade in orbit, this novel satellite tv for pc, which carries a radar altimeter to measure modifications within the peak of the world’s ice, has returned a wealth of details about how ice sheets, sea ice and glaciers are responding to local weather change. One of the crucial current findings from this extraordinary mission exhibits how it may be used to map modifications within the seaward edges of Antarctic ice cabinets.



About three-quarters of the Antarctic shoreline consists of ice cabinets. They’re everlasting floating extensions of the ice sheet which might be related to and fed by large ice streams draining the inside ice sheet. Ice cabinets type because the ice sheet flows in direction of the ocean and detaches from the bedrock beneath. The advance or retreat of ice cabinets is set by a steadiness between mass acquire from the movement of ice behind and snowfall on high, and mass loss by means of ocean melting on the base or iceberg calving on the edge.



Ice cabinets are vital for the steadiness of the ice sheet as a result of they act as buttresses, holding again the glaciers that feed them and slowing the movement of land ice into the ocean that contributes to sea-level rise.



Nevertheless, lately warming ocean waters and better air temperatures are taking their toll on among the ice cabinets, inflicting them to skinny, shrink and even collapse completely. Due to this fact, mapping ice-shelf calving entrance areas is vital for understanding and predicting future modifications within the stability of the ice sheet.



A paper printed just lately describes how scientists have developed a novel strategy of utilizing CryoSat to generate a novel time sequence of ice entrance positions for the Filchner-Ronne ice shelf – the second largest ice shelf in Antarctica.



Jan Wuite, from ENVEO in Austria, mentioned, “The detection of the calving entrance is predicated on the premise that the sting of an ice shelf is often a steep ice cliff, with a drop of tens of metres to the ocean floor or sea-ice cowl, which is clearly revealed by CryoSat.



“Applying a new method, called ‘elevation edge’, to CryoSat’s data has revealed that the entire Filchner-Ronne ice shelf advanced by more than 800 sq km per year between 2011 and 2018. The growth of the ice shelf was only interrupted by the calving of a 120 sq km iceberg in 2012 and a few smaller-scale events.”



Ultimately, the advancing ice entrance is predicted to interrupt off as a part of the pure ice shelf cycle, however these are slightly episodic occasions that solely occur each few years or generally many years. Many questions nonetheless should be answered as to what’s driving these calving occasions.



Thomas Nagler, additionally from ENVEO, added, “Combining this new dataset with ice velocities derived from Copernicus Sentinel-1 data allows us to calculate changes in the thickness and area of the ice shelf, as well as the advance rates and iceberg calving rates, emphasising the value of combining data from both satellite missions.”



ESA’s Mark Drinkwater famous, “Understanding how the world’s ice shelves are changing is fundamental to assessing ice sheet stability, and the role of ice shelves in controlling ice-sheet contribution to sea-level rise.”



“Simply this week a paper was printed in Nature stating that the Greenland ice sheet mass loss intently follows the IPCC high-end local weather warming situation – and the analysis was based mostly on measurements from quite a few totally different satellites.



“Here, we see how using this innovative elevation edge method with CryoSat data is a welcome addition to standard calving front location detection techniques based on radar and optical satellite imagery. This is great news, as the more information we have the more confident we can be about what’s going on in the far reaches of the polar regions.”



The brand new technique offers calving entrance areas at common intervals and may fill current gaps in time and house. Furthermore, it concurrently offers ice-thickness measurements which might be wanted to calculate mass modifications, and it additionally has a excessive diploma of automation which removes the necessity for heavy guide intervention.



Dr Wuite added, “We absolutely anticipate that, sooner or later, altimetry information will ship a scientific and steady report of change in ice-shelf calving entrance positions round Antarctica.



“With CryoSat set to remain in service and the future CRISTAL Copernicus Polar Ice and Snow Topography Altimeter mission – one of the Copernicus high-priority candidate missions – on the table for development, there are certainly excellent opportunities for satellite radar altimetry to deliver valuable new calving front location datasets to monitor the effects of climate change in Antarctica.”


Associated Hyperlinks

CryoSat at ESA

Beyond the Ice Age



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