"The ice sheets of Greenland and the Antarctic are increasing sources of global sea level rise. The ‘trillion dollar’ questions are ‘How much?’ and ‘How quickly?’ Ongoing monitoring from space will be essential to get the answers."
Polar ice plays a crucial role in regulating global climate because it reflects about 80 percent of the incoming sunlight. If the ice caps over the polar ocean melt, the ocean water would absorb a large part of the radiation energy, which would lead to further melting of the ice and further warming of the climate.
Because of the remoteness and harshness of the polar regions, in situ research is very difficult to carry out and has proved to be insufficient for comprehensive studies. Since their advent satellites have contributed to a greater understanding of polar regions and helped identify the strong links these regions have with Earth’s terrestrial, ocean and atmospheric processes.
According to a report released at the event in Tromsø by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), the lives of hundreds of millions of people across the world will be affected by declines in snow cover, sea ice, glaciers, permafrost and lake ice.
Speaking at the event, the Minister of the Environment for Norway, Helen Bjørnøy, said: "As documented in the report, melting of ice and snow will in itself have severe consequences on nature and society. But it will also reduce the reflection of sun beams from the surface of the Earth and in this way contribute to further global warming."
Since the early 1990s, ESA has been able to provide near-continuous satellite data on the polar regions over long periods of time, which is essential for scientists to identify and analyse long-term climatic trends and changes. For instance, using radar altimeter data from ESA’s ERS-1 and ERS-2, scientists at NASA's Goddard Space mapped the height of the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets and found there was a net loss of ice from the combined sheets between 1992 and 2002 and a corresponding rise in sea level.
In 2002 within days of its launch, ESA’s environmental satellite Envisat captured the disintegration of the Larsen-B ice shelf in Antarctica, surprising scientists because of the rapid rate at which the shelf broke apart.
Another study based on satellite data collected between 1996 and 2005 by ESA’s ERS-1, ERS-2 and Envisat and Canada’s Radarsat-1, scientists learned Greenland glaciers are melting into the sea twice as fast as previously believed, accounting for nearly 17 percent of the estimated 2.54 millimetre annual rise in global sea levels.
Observing data from Envisat’s Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar (ASAR) instrument and the AMSR-E instrument aboard the EOS Aqua satellite, scientists last year witnessed for the first time dramatic openings in the Arctic’s perennial sea ice pack north of Svalbard, and extending into the Russian Arctic all the way to the North Pole.
ESA operated an exhibit at the event in Tromsø to illustrate the benefits of satellite data and to highlight the need for carrying on long-term monitoring over the polar regions by satellites such as Envisat and ERS in order to provide authoritative evidence of trends and enable estimation of the consequences should such melting continue into the future.
In 2009, ESA will make another significant contribution to research in the polar regions with the launch of Cryosat-2. This spacecraft will monitor precise changes in the thickness of the polar ice sheets and floating sea ice. The observations made over the three-year lifetime of the mission will provide conclusive evidence on the rates at which ice cover is diminishing.
Mariangela D'Acunto | alfa
Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel
Removing fossil fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions as much as hoped
08.02.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...
A team led by Austrian experimental physicist Rainer Blatt has succeeded in characterizing the quantum entanglement of two spatially separated atoms by observing their light emission. This fundamental demonstration could lead to the development of highly sensitive optical gradiometers for the precise measurement of the gravitational field or the earth's magnetic field.
The age of quantum technology has long been heralded. Decades of research into the quantum world have led to the development of methods that make it possible...
Cardiovascular tissue engineering aims to treat heart disease with prostheses that grow and regenerate. Now, researchers from the University of Zurich, the Technical University Eindhoven and the Charité Berlin have successfully implanted regenerative heart valves, designed with the aid of computer simulations, into sheep for the first time.
Producing living tissue or organs based on human cells is one of the main research fields in regenerative medicine. Tissue engineering, which involves growing...
A team of scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg investigated optically-induced superconductivity in the alkali-doped fulleride K3C60under high external pressures. This study allowed, on one hand, to uniquely assess the nature of the transient state as a superconducting phase. In addition, it unveiled the possibility to induce superconductivity in K3C60 at temperatures far above the -170 degrees Celsius hypothesized previously, and rather all the way to room temperature. The paper by Cantaluppi et al has been published in Nature Physics.
Unlike ordinary metals, superconductors have the unique capability of transporting electrical currents without any loss. Nowadays, their technological...
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
18.05.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering
18.05.2018 | Information Technology
18.05.2018 | Information Technology