2 May 2018 - While ESA’s CryoSat continues to provide clear insight into how much sea ice is being lost and how the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets are changing, the mission has again surpassed its original scope by revealing exactly how mountain glaciers are also succumbing to change.
Glaciers all over the globe are retreating – and for the last 15 years, glacial ice has been the main cause of sea-level rise.
Apart from Antarctica, Patagonia is home to the biggest glaciers in the southern hemisphere, but some are retreating faster than anywhere else in the world. This is because the weather is relatively warm and these glaciers typically terminate in fjords and lakes, exacerbating surface melting and causing them to flow faster and lose ice as icebergs at their margins.
There is a clear need to monitor and understand glacial dynamics, not only in Patagonia but globally. However, with around 200 000 glaciers worldwide coupled with their remote rugged terrain, maintaining local monitoring systems is extremely difficult.
Turning to space, satellite radar altimeters have been mapping ice loss from the large sheets for the last 25 years, but the footprint of this type of instrument is generally too coarse to monitor the smaller mountain glaciers. Fortunately, a new way of processing CryoSat data now makes it possible to map these glaciers in fine detail. .
The technique of swath processing differs from conventional radar altimetry. Using CryoSat’s novel interferometric mode, whole swaths, rather than single points, of elevations can be computed. This is yielding more detail that ever before on how glacial ice is changing. .
ESA’s Earth Explorer CryoSat mission is dedicated to precise monitoring of changes in the thickness of marine ice floating in the polar oceans and variations in the thickness of the vast ice sheets that blanket Greenland and Antarctica.
Full educational video explanation at: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Observing_the_Earth/CryoSat/CryoSat_reveals_retreat_of_Patagonian_glaciers