European Space Agency Reports on Antarctica

science, ESA, Antarctica, european space agency

In a recent review of the Cryosat Satellite that reviews the Earth, the European Space Agency has reported Antarctica is losing a considerable amount of ice every year. Data collected from Cryosat over the last three years confirms the results.

The Cryosat satellite data shows that Antarctica is losing over 150 cubic kilometers of ice every year, a much larger amount from the last survey. This change has caused global sea level rise of about 15 percent higher – a major effect for climate. But how did researchers from the European Space Agency collect this proof?

In 1978 a satellite known as Envisat mapped the Earth to determine its condition showing ice loss in Antarctica to be only 2.7 percent but after a while of working with the satellite scientists determined that this data was incorrect due to the limited capabilities that the satellite had to work with. While many satellites have been launched since that decade, in 2010 the European Space Agency released the newest version of the Cryosat satellite with more advanced capabilities. The most important part of measuring ice loss accurately was the ability to not only determine loss on the service but to be able to detect thickness of the ice to make a deeper observation in the polar climate. Therefore, the new Cryosat released in 2010 came equipped with advanced technology that allowed it to withstand extremely cold temperatures, determine the margin of the ice, and get a better overall picture of the Earth’s cold climates.

This technology has helped scientists from the European Space Agency to get more accurate data on the true amount of ice loss that is happening on Earth, including the newest data reported on Antarctica that shows a large amount of ice loss from year to year.

Professor Andrew Shepherd, who led a the study on West Antarctica said, “Thanks to its novel instrument design and to its near-polar orbit, CryoSat allows us to survey coastal and high-latitude regions of Antarctica that were beyond the capability of previous altimeter missions, and it seems that these regions are crucial for determining the overall imbalance,” in a statement made to the European Space Agency.

The data from the missions of the newest Cryosat satellite have been presented every year since the year 2010. In 2010 the evidence showed a loss, although scientists believed that there might have just been a major difference between what the previous satellite collected and what the newest Cryosat satellite collected. But when the European Space Agency reported on Antarctica in 2012 they showed an improvement on ice melting as they found the height of Antarctica to be 9cm higher than in the previous year. However, this year a major loss was found from the evidence gathered and this evidence of the melting polar caps was presented at the American Geophysical Union’s Autumn meeting which brings together more than 20,000 scientists, educators, and students.

As Antarctica continues to be observed and measured by scientists and the Cryosat of the European Space Agency more satellites with even better technology are said to begin launching in the year 2014. Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 are two new satellites being prepared for Europe’s Copernicus program, or the European Earth-Observation Program, which in recent years was known as GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security). Scientists working on Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 hope to give the satellites better radar sensors for even more accurate monitoring of every polar location.

In the future the European Space Agency hopes to report improved results on Antarctica but only the future will tell of Mother Nature’s plans for Antarctica.

Written by Crystal Boulware

European Space Agency Report
European Space Agency Cryosat
Red Orbit

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