Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientists Confront The Challenges Of The Arctic In Support Of ESA’s Ice Mission

30.06.2004


Camping out, for anything up to two months, on vast ice sheets in the Arctic is just one of the challenges scientists faced performing the first of a series of six validation experiments in support of ESA’s CryoSat mission.



CryoSat will be the first Earth Explorer to be launched as part of ESA’s Living Planet Programme. Due for launch at the end of this year, it will measure changes in the elevation of ice sheets and sea ice with unprecedented accuracy in order to determine whether or not our planet’s ice masses are thinning due to global warming.

This series of validation experiments are crucial to ensuring that the mission runs smoothly and that the aims of the mission are achieved. Carrying out experiments in the harsh conditions of the Arctic is always punishing, and this first validation campaign, which has just been completed, proved no exception as scientists had to overcome a number of unique challenges.


One of the challenges the scientists faced was the sheer scale of the experiment. It included research scientists from over five different countries and different institutes, all participating in a coordinated measurement program that was to be conducted on the ground as well as from aircraft.

The ground experiments were carried out in remote, and sometimes inhospitable, areas on some of the main ice sheets in the north of Canada, Greenland and Norway. In addition, an aircraft managed by the Alfred Wegner Institute (AWI) in Germany, carried out surveys over each of the in-situ sites using both the ESA radar-altimeter ASIRAS, to simulate CryoSat measurements, and a laser scanner to support the interpretation of the radar measurements. Additional laser measurements were also taken from an Air Greenland plane managed by KMS of Denmark. This plane, equipped with skis so that it was capable of landing on snow and ice, also supported the ground crews in Greenland.

"At this scale, with each of the field teams isolated on the ice, separated from each other by hundreds of kilometres , the key to a successful validation campaign lay in organisation and coordination”, says Malcolm Davidson, ESA’s Validation Manager for CryoSat. “Through a series of planning meetings, at ESA, with the participants, we were able to carefully define the experiments ahead of time and identify how to bring together the aircraft and ground measurements most effectively.”

Taking the ground measurements posed a particular challenge. Scientists spent anything between two weeks and two months camped on the ice sheets collecting data, that will eventually allow ESA to better characterise the performance of the CryoSat mission and lead to better, more accurate measurements of the changes in ice thickness and mass balance. Ground activities included travelling by skidoo across the vast icy expanses with GPS instruments to measure surface topography, digging snow pits to assess the effects of layering below the surface on the CryoSat signal and so-called ‘coffee can’ measurements to determine ice density and depth.

An unexpected challenge during the campaign came when the usually reliable Dornier-228 aircraft, the workhorse for the airborne measurements, experienced technical difficulties with the on-board navigation system. Fortunately, these were solved by flying a technicican to Svalbard to service the aircraft, and developing the appropriate procedures to calibrate the precision navigation-system before each flight.

Uwe Nixdorf, the airborne coordinator from AWI, stated that, "The technical problems with the aircraft posed an additional and unforeseen challenge. However, I am very glad that in the end they were able to be resolved so that we could go on to collect key data at the different sites for the validation of the CryoSat mission. With so much effort that had been put into this campaign, in the air and on the ground, we did not want to fail."

Following the end of the first campaign, the scientists have only a few months to recover, review the data and draw some preliminary conclusions before heading back onto Canada and Greenland’s inhospitable ice sheets for the second validation campaign planned for this autumn.

Mike Rast | alfa
Further information:
http://www.esa.int

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Climate change weakens Walker circulation
20.10.2017 | MARUM - Zentrum für Marine Umweltwissenschaften an der Universität Bremen

nachricht Shallow soils promote savannas in South America
20.10.2017 | Senckenberg Forschungsinstitut und Naturmuseen

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Terahertz spectroscopy goes nano

20.10.2017 | Information Technology

Strange but true: Turning a material upside down can sometimes make it softer

20.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

NRL clarifies valley polarization for electronic and optoelectronic technologies

20.10.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>