By Elton Gomes
NASA successfully launched its Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) from California at 9.02 am on Saturday. The satellite began its mission to measure the ice within frozen areas of the Earth. NASA’s ICESat-2 took off from Space Launch Complex-2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base on United Launch Alliance’s final Delta II rocket, NASA said in its official statement.
The ICESat-2 will help scientists in reviewing the rate of the planet’s melting ice in a mission described as “exceptionally important for science”. The device will be activated in approximately two weeks and is said to reveal unprecedented detail about the current thickness of ice in the polar areas as the climate warms. News
What will the new satellite do?
NASA said that its satellite will continue exploring remote polar areas. “With this mission we continue humankind’s exploration of the remote polar regions of our planet and advance our understanding of how ongoing changes of Earth’s ice cover at the poles and elsewhere will affect lives around the world, now and in the future,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said in a statement.
The ICESat-2’s high-resolution data will document changes in the Earth’s ice caps, improve forecasts of sea level rise that is triggered by melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, and will help scientists understand the mechanism behind the decreasing amount of floating ice. It will also assess how loss of sea ice can affect the ocean and atmosphere.
How will ICESat-2 help researchers?
Several billions of tons of land ice melt or flow into the oceans annually, thus contributing to a rise in sea levels across the world. In recent time, contributions from these melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica alone have raised global sea levels by more than a millimeter a year, and the rate seems to be increasing at an alarming rate.
Data from ICESat-2 will help researchers in narrowing the range of uncertainty in forecasts of sea level rise in the future. The satellite will also help in making the most precise polar-wide measurements to date of sea ice freeboard, which is the height of sea ice above the adjacent sea surface.
Potential data users have been working with ICESat-2 scientists to connect the mission science to societal needs. For instance, measurement from ICESat-2 could help local governments plan better in the event of a flood or drought. Additionally, forest height maps and displaying tree density and structure could improve computer models used by firefighters to predict the behaviour of wildfires.
Why studying ice is important?
The ICESat-2 will measure the average annual elevation change of land ice in Greenland and Antarctica to within the width of a pencil, thereby capturing 60,000 measurements every second.
“The new observational technologies of ICESat-2 will advance our knowledge of how the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica contribute to sea level rise,” Michael Freilich, director of the earth science division in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said, IANS reported. ICESat-2 will help in improving NASA’s 15-year record of monitoring the change in polar ice heights.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius
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