Since the launch last year CPOM and European Space Agency (ESA) scientists have been examining the data and designing new processing systems to turn measurements made from 700 km in space into maps of the ice cover in the Arctic and Antarctic and of the Arctic Ocean surface. Today marked the culmination of that effort with the presentation of the first ice maps from CryoSat-2. They reveal for the first time, throughout the entire Arctic, the detailed behaviour of the ice as it is rifted and redistributed by the action of the wind. As CryoSat-2 continues to send back measurements from its polar orbit they will build up a detailed picture of how the ice cover and ocean are changing.
Robert Cullen from ESA says “It’s really heart warming to start to see the results of all the difficult work European industry has put into this mission. They were really pressured with a tight specification to work with. Since launch it’s also been a hard year trying to understand the data of a new measurement system and CPOM at the forefront with ESA and international support now has the capability of starting to deliver on the CryoSat mission objectives. After one year this is a real achievement and one we should all be proud of.”
The sea-ice thickness map is based on data from January and February 2011 and shows thicker, rough, multi-year ice north of Canada and Greenland, stretching to the North Pole and slightly beyond. In large parts of the Arctic – north of Russia – the map reveals thinner, first year ice. The black line marks the boundary between the first year and multi-year ice from data from The Norwegian Meteorological Institute.
Seymour Laxon (Director of CPOM) says “This is the first time we have been able to measure sea ice thickness over almost the entire Arctic ice pack. The thickness map shows a clear agreement with regional data gathered from aircraft, demonstrating that CryoSat-2 now provides us with a tool to accurately measure changes in ice thickness.”
Analysis of CryoSat-2 data, by CPOM scientist Natalia Galin, over a test site near the Hawaiian-Emperor Seamount Chain in the Pacific Ocean has also revealed the superb accuracy of the CryoSat-2 instrument. Natalia says “We were astonished to find we could measure tiny changes in the ocean surface caused by the seamounts lying deep under water. We didn’t believe the hardware was capable of this. It makes us think that this technology might have an interesting future for ocean applications too.”
CPOM scientist Katharine Giles says: “CryoSat-2 will not only reveal what is happening to the Arctic sea ice but also how the ocean beneath is changing. The Arctic Ocean itself contains a large amount of liquid fresh water and changes to the Arctic Ocean circulation can effect how this water is stored and its release into the North Atlantic.”
This figure shows the Arctic Ocean Sea Surface Height for January and February 2011 from CryoSat-2. The sea surface height is the height above the Earth’s gravity field in meters and has been combined with data from the Envisat satellite in areas where there is no ice cover.