NASA researchers and other scientists used a satellite combined with aircraft video to create a new technique for detecting ponds of water on top of Arctic sea ice. Until now, it was not possible to accurately monitor these ponds on ice from space.
Water that forms on sea ice during the summer, called a melt pond, absorbs the Suns energy rather than reflecting it back to space the way ice does. The balance between reflected and absorbed energy has a large effect on Arctic and global climate. When more ponds of water form on the Arctic sea ice cover in early summer, more heat is absorbed, causing the Arctics sea ice cover to melt faster during the summer. Knowledge of when and where these melt ponds form will help scientists calculate the balance of energy in the Arctic and improve their knowledge and projections of climate both regionally and globally.
By using detailed aircraft video of Arctic surfaces and comparing those with coarser satellite imagery, the researchers were able to recognize rough features in the satellite data that corresponded to ponds on ice, ocean water, and un-melted sea ice. Now, they are able to use a satellite to monitor sea ice, without the aid of the aircraft video. Satellites offer the advantages of frequent regular flyovers that cover vast areas all at once.
Krishna Ramanujan | GSFC
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