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NASA releases unprecedented new maps of Antarctica from satellite data – Daily Mail

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A new satellite measuring the elevation of Earth’s ever-changing features has begun mapping our planet in unprecedented detail.

The Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) is barely three months into its mission, but has already gathered data on remote ice sheets, forest canopies, and previously unmapped areas of Antarctica.

This information will be critical in understanding the potential impacts of sea level rise, and could give way to more precise sea ice forecasts, NASA says.

According to NASA, the orbiting craft can measure the height of sea ice to within an inch, revealing the details of the surface as never seen before. The satellite has managed to observe some of the previously unmapped features of the Transantarctic Mountains, for example

‘ICESat-2 is going to be a fantastic tool for research and discovery, both for cryospheric sciences and other disciplines,’ said tom Neumann, ICEsat-2 project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

The ICESat-2 team shared some of the satellite’s preliminary findings during a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in Washington, DC.

According to NASA, the orbiting craft can measure the height of sea ice to within an inch, revealing the details of the surface as never seen before.

The satellite has managed to observe some of the previously unmapped features of the Transantarctic Mountains, for example.

‘It’s spectacular terrain,’ said Benjamin Smith, a glaciologist with the University of Washington, Seattle.

‘We’re able to measure slopes that are steeper than 45 degrees, and maybe even more, all through this mountain range.’

 

A new satellite measuring the elevation of Earth’s ever-changing features has begun mapping our planet in unprecedented detail. The ICESat-2 team shared some of the satellite’s preliminary findings during a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in Washington, DC

The satellite measures elevation by tracking how photons reflect from the surface. So far, this has revealed ice plateaus, 65-foot-deep crevasses, and sharp ice shelves. With each additional pass, it will build upon its observations to create a clearer picture.

‘Very soon, we’ll have measurements that we can compare to older measurements of surface elevation,’ Smith says.

‘And after the satellite’s been up for a year, we’ll start to be able to watch the ice sheets change over the seasons.’

Though it’s still very early in the mission, researchers are already praising the work ICESat-2 is doing from orbit.

 

HOW MUCH WILL SEA LEVELS RISE IN THE NEXT FEW CENTURIES?

Global sea levels could rise as much as 1.2 metres (4 feet) by 2300 even if we meet the 2015 Paris climate goals, scientists have warned.

The long-term change will be driven by a thaw of ice from Greenland to Antarctica that is set to re-draw global coastlines.

Sea level rise threatens cities from Shanghai to London, to low-lying swathes of Florida or Bangladesh, and to entire nations such as the Maldives.

It is vital that we curb emissions as soon as possible to avoid an even greater rise, a German-led team of researchers said in a new report.

By 2300, the report projected that sea levels would gain by 0.7-1.2 metres, even if almost 200 nations fully meet goals under the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Targets set by the accords include cutting greenhouse gas emissions to net zero in the second half of this century.

Ocean levels will rise inexorably because heat-trapping industrial gases already emitted will linger in the atmosphere, melting more ice, it said.

In addition, water naturally expands as it warms above four degrees Celsius (39.2°F).

The report also found that every five years of delay beyond 2020 in peaking global emissions would mean an extra 20 centimetres (8 inches) of sea level rise by 2300.

‘Sea level is often communicated as a really slow process that you can’t do much about … but the next 30 years really matter,’ lead author Dr Matthias Mengel, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, in Potsdam, Germany, told Reuters.

None of the nearly 200 governments to sign the Paris Accords are on track to meet its pledges.

 

‘The data’s spectacular,’ says Ron Kwok, a sea ice scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

‘The fresh ice is totally flat to within a couple centimeters.’

ICESat-2 has observed ice in the Arctic and Antarctica during its first few months.

Using its six beams for data collection, researchers say we’ll soon have a better understanding of sea ice thickness than every before.

‘We’ll have much higher resolution of where it’s ice and where it’s water in the marginal ice zones, where the compact ice cover meets the ocean, during melt and freeze-up,’ Kwok said.

‘That’s going to be new science to think about.’

 

The Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) is barely three months into its mission, but has already gathered data on remote ice sheets, forest canopies, and previously unmapped areas of Antarctica. It’s also been studying shallow coastal waters

The satellite data complements observations gathered by NASA’s Operation IceBridge aerial surveys over nearly a decade.

‘Almost every flight has ICESat-2 tracks incorporated into it,’ said Joseph MacGregor, IceBridge project scientist at NASA Goddard.

‘We fly over fast-changing outlet glaciers, the slower-changing interior, and uncommon surfaces that are interesting to ICESat-2.

‘The primary goal for IceBridge is to bridge the gap between ICESat and ICESat-2, so it’s very rewarding to know that we’re completing that process.’

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