Weatherdem's Weblog

Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy

Monitoring Ice and Water Over Antarctica

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NASA began flights on Oct. 15th that will monitor Antarctic ice over the next 6 years.  Aircraft will be mounted with instruments that will be able to penetrate the ice, something satellite-based sensors have a very hard time doing.  What’s the big variable they’re trying to monitor?  The amount of water under the ice.  Water between the ice and the bedrock allows the ice sheet and glaciers to slide along horizontally toward the ocean faster than if there were no water.  Melt at the surface of ice sheets makes its way down through the sheet, just like every stream and river on land.

The flights are a sort-of temporary, albeit inadequate, replacement for NASA’s Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite, known as ICESat.  The current ICESat has been in orbit since 2003 and is nearing the end of its lifetime. The next satellite, ICESat-II, is scheduled to launch in 2014 at the earliest.

These kinds of platforms need funding, of course, which the Cons despise.  It’s not a giveaway to a war contractor, so why bother giving NASA money to monitor climate change, which they are trying to exacerbate?  Places like Antarctica need constant monitoring with the most advanced technologies available.  Processes and feedbacks that climate models currently don’t have or have only poor representations of need to be researched and implemented.

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