CPOM’s research addresses two grand challenges, the Arctic climate system and the relationship between ice sheets and sea levels, concentrating on Arctic sea ice and the ice sheets of both the Arctic and Antarctic.  Satellite observations of these polar climate systems tell us that change is underway, and numerical models help us to understand that change.

Arctic climate system

Every year the Arctic Ocean experiences the formation and then melting of vast amounts of ice that floats on the sea surface. This sea ice plays a central role in polar climate and the global ocean circulation pattern. Credit: ESA

Sea ice in the Arctic Ocean. Credit:ESA

Recent years have seen dramatic reductions in Arctic sea ice cover, in fact the Arctic Ocean is predicted to be seasonally ice-free by the end of the century.  The limited measurements we have show that sea ice thickness has decreased too.  Changes in ice thickness can potentially alter the climate by, for example, changing ocean circulation, but we need better measurements of sea ice thickness, derived from Earth observation techniques, to test both sea ice and climate models. Read more

Ice sheets and sea level rise

Surface elevation change measured by CryoSat-2 from 2010 to 2014 (McMillan et al., 2014)

Surface elevation change in Antarctica from CryoSat-2

Over the past two decades, satellites have given us a completely new perspective on how the Earth’s ice sheets are changing.  CPOM is using satellite data to monitor the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets, allowing us to improve models of how the ice is changing, and in turn better predict changing sea levels. Read more