CryoSat-2 exceeding expectations

New view of ice thickness in Antarctica

One of CryoSat-2's first synthetic aperture radar data images shows a track across central Antarctica – an area never before charted by satellite. The fine structure in the ice surface, which would be blurred in data acquired by a conventional radar altimeter, is clearly visible. Click to enlarge.

From the European Space Agency

070110

Participants at the Living Planet Symposium have been hearing about ESA’s most recently launched mission, CryoSat-2. In orbit for almost three months, the satellite is in excellent health with scientists very encouraged by the first ice-thickness data presented at the symposium.

Prof. Duncan Wingham, Lead Investigator for the CryoSat mission, stated, “The satellite is in very good shape – exceeding in-orbit specifications, the ground segment software is fine, the system of data distribution looks good and we are excited by the quality of data being received.

“It is extremely rewarding to see the theoretical idea we had for an ice mission 10 years ago now coming to fruition.”

CryoSat-2 was launched last April, so the satellite and instruments are still being commissioned, a process that will continue until the autumn. Nevertheless, scientists and users are very excited by the first data, which already show the fine detail of the ice surface.

These data also demonstrate the added coverage that CryoSat-2 delivers. The satellite’s orbit brings it closer to the poles than earlier observation satellites, covering an additional 4.6 million sq km – an area larger than all 27 European Union member states put together.

CryoSat is Europe’s first mission dedicated to monitoring Earth’s ice fields. The satellite carries the first radar altimeter of its kind to overcome the difficulties of measuring icy surfaces.

Its primary payload, the sophisticated SAR/Interferometric Radar Altimeter (SIRAL), can measure the thickness of sea ice down to centimetres and monitor changes in the ice sheets on land, particularly around the edges where icebergs are calved from the vast ice sheets that blanket Greenland and Antarctica.

CryoSat-2  track across Antarctica

The data shown comes from part of Antarctica that has never before been mapped by satellite. CryoSat-2's orbit, which reaches latitudes of 88°, takes it closer to the poles than any earlier observation mission. The large white circle in the image indicates where earlier coverage was missing. Credits: ESA/Google Earth

Together with information on ice extent, these measurements will show how the volume of Earth’s ice is changing and lead to a better understanding of the relationship between ice and climate change.

“We have had some hiccups with the science data processor – after all, a radar like this has never flown in space before. But we’ve shaken most of these out now and the results are looking very good,” said CryoSat-2 Project Manager Richard Francis.

“In particular the resolution of this system is amazing. We can see lots of detail in this track over part of Antarctica, made on the day the SIRAL instrument was first switched on.”

It was also announced today that orbit data from the Doppler Orbit and Radio Positioning Integration by Satellite (DORIS) radio receiver will be released in early July.

DORIS is a tracking system carried by CryoSat-2 to detect and measure the Doppler shift on signals broadcast from a network of radio beacons around the world. These signals are used for orbit determination, down to millimetre level and essential for accurately measuring the height of the ice surface.

Since the data from DORIS have been validated and shown to be excellent, they are being released to the community before the end of commissioning.

Now half-way through commissioning, CryoSat-2 is clearly well on track to delivering the precise data on ice-thickness change that are much-needed to provide a better insight into what is happening to Earth’s ice cover as a result of climate change.

ESA's ice mission

ESA’s Earth Explorer CryoSat mission is dedicated to precise monitoring of the changes in the thickness of marine ice floating in the polar oceans and variations in the thickness of the vast ice sheets that overlay Greenland and Antarctica. Credits: ESA–AOES Medialab

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37 thoughts on “CryoSat-2 exceeding expectations

  1. Sorry – I don’t look at graphs with unlabelled axes, especially with no units.
    I’m taking bets that the shape of the surface of central Antarctica is formed by wind-driven, surface-derived particles of unknown isotopic content; not the model of the annual layer by layer of snow whose compacted isotope content has been linked to temperature at deposition. If we see an overall increase in surface elevation, the second hypothesis might be ok. If we see hollows and ridges migrating around the surface and if we assume uniformitarianism, it will say something about how handy isotopes really are.

  2. I’m pleased that the scientists have their toy.
    Let’s hope politicians and the deluded masses everywhere will take note when it reports healthy ice cover.

  3. @jeef
    I can guarantee that whatever the first results, and with no reliable historical reference frame to compare with, the results will show
    1. That things are much worse than we thought.
    2. That they are getting worser ever more quicklier – ‘exponentially’ is a misused word we will see.
    3. That we are all going to hell in a handcart unless we stop all CO2 production (inc human breathing) immediately.
    No point in even worrying about the data…the conclusions were written well before the satellite’s launch.

  4. Interesting structure in the cross-section. The colors table isn’t labelled, though. Return strength, maybe?

  5. Prof Wingham: “we are excited by the quality of data being received.”
    CRU: “We’ll be only too pleased to improve it further for you.”
    (EDIT: Be sure to hide any decline that doesn’t agree with the models. – the mods)

  6. University of Jena (Germany) found errors in climate models:
    Contrary to previous findings, our results suggest that Q10 is independent of mean annual temperature, does not differ among biomes, and is confined to values around 1.4 (±0.1). The strong relation between photosynthesis and respiration, instead, is highly variable among sites. Overall, the results partly explain a less pronounced climate–carbon cycle feedback than suggested by current carbon cycle climate models.
    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/science.1189587v1

  7. Hard for this kind of work to stand on the same footing as Pen Hadow and his Catlin Arctic Ice expedition!!!

  8. I look forward to the end of modelling Arctic ice volume and to the even more extreme conspiracy theories when PIOMAS is validated.

  9. I take it the first figure is a cross-section along the line shown in the second figure? Is it from edge on the left to centre on the right? Green for land and pink for ice? What are the units on the axes and for the colours? If I’m the only one with these kinds of questions, apologies.

  10. Michael Larkin,
    You are not alone in your questions, seems this imagery is best explained by the experts, but if they (the experts) are part of the conspiracy that is AGW then no doubt it will be more of the same.

  11. I don’t know, these are nice images and all, but I think we’d be better off sticking the best the Navy has to offer in PIPS 2.0.
    (sarc off).
    These are beautiful images. It’s like taking the blinders off. Can’t wait for the full data sets to start coming in!

  12. At the beginning of each new Era the world is in a tizzy. Never expect too much, too soon. The political hype used to justify the public expense far, far exceeds the results. Understanding is the very last achievement. Here, at the beginning of The Great Technilogical Revolution, confusion and chaos reign supreme.

  13. R.Gates
    LOL, thanks for your piece on another thread about the Arctic Di-pole, I never heard of that before and ’tis incredible to think of a new atmospheric effect due to a massive manipulation of atmosphere chemistry…but maybe not.

  14. Anthony-The paper mentioned by Peter Muller and pgosselin is another bombshell and deserves it’s own thread. Because of the paywall, I could only read the abstract that Peter Muller referenced and the summary posted at http://pgosselin.wordpress.com/2010/07/06/max-planck-institute-report-its-back-to-the-drawing-board-for-climate-modellers-alarmist-scenarios-unrealistic/
    Of particular significance is first higlight that pgosselin posted, “In most ecosystems, the photosynthesis rate at which plants fix carbon dioxide from the atmosphere changes relatively little as the temperature varies.” I’m not a biologist, but doesn’t the growth rate of trees, i.e. tree rings depend directly on the photosynthesis going on in the tree leaves? If this process “changes relatively little as the temperature varies”, then one could conclude that the validity of tree rings as a proxy for temperature is questionable.
    I just finished Bishop Hill’s book, “The Hockey Stick Illusion” and I would highly recommend it. After following the data selection process (Others may call it cherry-picking) and the contortion of science to create a hockey stick, I raised the question,
    “Does a tree’s growth rate respond to temperature?” on my website, http://www.socratesparadox.com

  15. Well … the “final product” will still be the result of some computer program that “interprets” the data. That interpretation most likely will be skewed to support an alarmists position. All one needs to note is the multiple times it is stated in the article ….
    “Ice changes due to climate change”.
    We all know that in Alarmist world, climate change means … AGW.

  16. Hard not to approve of any sub-system called Doris (an old-fashioned English name suggesting dependability).

  17. It “can measure the thickness of sea ice down to centimetres?”
    You know what that means, every centimeter if ice loss is going to result in a mass blitz of media stories about the perils AGW.

  18. And 60 years from now they may have acquired enough information with this system to better understand what is happening. What we will end up with is comparing higher resolution data with decreasing resolutions from the last 30+ years of satellite data and all the ship observations. In other words we will have a newer version of fruit salad than what we now have for ice reference and historic temperature data.

  19. Wow
    “Now half-way through commissioning, CryoSat-2 is clearly well on track to delivering the precise data on ice-thickness change that are much-needed to provide a better insight into what is happening to Earth’s ice cover as a result of climate change.”
    They jump so quickly to the political when it seems they are at the threshold of developing a new data set. It seems the the excitement should be on the development and accuracy of the data set. Maybe even on how it will be made available and its archiving procedures.
    But then new mission is really..
    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/07/05/nasa-chief-frontier-better-relations-muslims/

  20. Now come on everyone, let’s give everyone, even ESA at least one chance to be honest this time around.
    This is a great time to gather some detailed information on exactly how these instruments work. The word interferometer pops up in the article in reference to the SPIRAL instrument, OK, what is the frequency of the down bearing radar beam? Are there multiple beams? Multiple frequencies? How do they get this radar to pierce a kilometer deep into crushed snow and maintain wavelength sync? What when it’s solid clear ice? What’s the difference?
    Those are just a “for instance”. Good time to do a little science gathering on the side lines while many articles and references to the core information on this satellite is being brought to the public.
    I just know others here who have an inkling of how these instruments operate already have some questions popping up in their minds, but usually information like that is rather hard to dig out.
    Now if they will just be honest in publishing its limits and problems, all satellites have them. The MSM, that’s another matter, but information like that above will help when the BS flies.

  21. kramer says:
    July 6, 2010 at 6:49 am
    It “can measure the thickness of sea ice down to centimetres?”

    I agree kramer. Here’s a simple hypothetical example. Lets see if they start reporting, instead of 11736984 km3, something like 11736983576782104579000 cm3 to the last cubic centimeter, that kind of precision is what that statement tends to imply without qualifications. It’s BS. They would have to bounce the radar and record every single square centimeter of Antarctica in one single pass for snow is always blowing from one place to another constantly. They can’t even measure snowfall at research stations with any accuracy due to that fact!
    The 11736984 km3 is questionable in the first place and probably should have been properly reported something like 11737000 km3 to five decimal places or worse. That is one thing that is wrong with proper science today, honesty in reporting, they left out all of the factors that make that level of precision in bulk a figment of someone’s imagination. And, when you take the actual average precision and cube it you will have something like 15-18 zeros in trailing portion of that number and it still then has error bars on top of that.
    If the above is not true, I want someone to prove it to me, don’t forget the areal resolution, precision, and error bars on top of that vertical measurement above.

  22. Also, will the raw data be available for viewing & analysing by the public or will we be stuck with the “adjusted, value-added products”?
    Jeff

  23. jcrabb says:
    July 6, 2010 at 6:24 am
    R.Gates
    LOL, thanks for your piece on another thread about the Arctic Di-pole, I never heard of that before and ’tis incredible to think of a new atmospheric effect due to a massive manipulation of atmosphere chemistry…but maybe not.
    ___________
    Here is a link to a significant bit of research done on the Arctic Dipole Anomaly:
    http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2009/2008GL036706.shtml
    And to quote the summary:
    “Recent record lows of Arctic summer sea ice extent are found to be triggered by the Arctic atmospheric Dipole Anomaly (DA) pattern. This local, second–leading mode of sea–level pressure (SLP) anomaly in the Arctic produced a strong meridional wind anomaly that drove more sea ice out of the Arctic Ocean from the western to the eastern Arctic into the northern Atlantic during the summers of 1995, 1999, 2002, 2005, and 2007. In the 2007 summer, the DA also enhanced anomalous oceanic heat flux into the Arctic Ocean via Bering Strait, which accelerated bottom and lateral melting of sea ice and amplified the ice–albedo feedback. A coupled ice–ocean model was used to confirm the historical record lows of summer sea ice extent.”
    ______
    What I think is important to understand the with DA, is that wind & temperature are related with these phenomenon, and the entire system is self-reinforcing through positive feedback. Thus, when a skeptic says, “well, the sea ice loss in the Arctic in 2007 had nothing to do with temperature, it was all the wind…” You know right away they either they know nothing about the DA, or they simply don’t care to know.

  24. I expect its first mission to be circling above some “collapsing Antarctic ice sheet” or that “dangerously warming” Antarctica´s tail.

  25. Mike Davis says:
    July 6, 2010 at 7:26 am
    And 60 years from now they may have acquired enough information with this system to better understand what is happening. What we will end up with is comparing higher resolution data with decreasing resolutions from the last 30+ years of satellite data and all the ship observations. In other words we will have a newer version of fruit salad than what we now have for ice reference and historic temperature data.
    ********************
    VILLABOLO:
    I agree about the distinction between Hi Res and Low Res. However, with reference to the Arctic Ice Cap, it is not going to be around for 60 years. Perhaps, however, some Martians will be gracious and spread some dust in Earth’s orbit.

  26. mariwarcwm says:
    July 6, 2010 at 12:54 am
    I’m pleased that the scientists have their toy.
    Let’s hope politicians and the deluded masses everywhere will take note when it reports healthy ice cover.

  27. trbixler says:
    July 6, 2010 at 8:17 am
    Wow
    “Now half-way through commissioning, CryoSat-2 is clearly well on track to delivering the precise data on ice-thickness change that are much-needed to provide a better insight into what is happening to Earth’s ice cover as a result of climate change.”
    They jump so quickly to the political when it seems they are at the threshold of developing a new data set. It seems the the excitement should be on the development and accuracy of the data set. Maybe even on how it will be made available and its archiving procedures.
    But then new mission is really..
    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/07/05/nasa-chief-frontier-better-relations-muslims/
    **************************
    VILLABOLO:
    The excitement IS about the technical abilities of the satellites. Merely focusing on one individual who, on a tangent, speaks about political ramifications, does not mean that your over generalization is justified.
    By the way, why are you quoting a news agency like Fox with a record of fraudulent videos and grossly out of context quotes, along with phony renditions of opinion polls totalling 120%,?
    I suggest you disconnect the television set. I haven’t watched TV in 10 years.
    PS: I MADE AN ERROR IN MY POST TO MARIWARCWM. I DELETED MY RESPONSE BY MISTAKE.

  28. “Hard not to approve of any sub-system called Doris (an old-fashioned English name suggesting dependability).”
    Actually a Greek oceanid nymph and latterly a girls’ christian name much favoured at the turn of the last century. Oh! And it was my mother’s name! Yes I am that old unfortunately.

  29. R. Gates says:
    July 6, 2010 at 11:40 am
    “What I think is important to understand the with DA, is that wind & temperature are related with these phenomenon, and the entire system is self-reinforcing through positive feedback. Thus, when a skeptic says, “well, the sea ice loss in the Arctic in 2007 had nothing to do with temperature, it was all the wind…” You know right away they either they know nothing about the DA, or they simply don’t care to know.”
    What I think is important to understand is that when a warmer says the entire system is self-reinforcing through positive feedback you know right away that you have before you someone who is a candidate for buying that bridge……

  30. Good news! It will be interesting to see if the CryoSat data confirms systems producing Arctic sea ice volumes, or if it’s back to the drawing board. A proper understanding of the amount of sea ice will prevent much idle speculation.

  31. I agree this is great technology, but how many years of data is acceptable before any sort of conclusions about trends can be formed? Ten, thirty, fifty, a hundred, a thousand? My guess, about a year…..just think of Amazing GRACE. I hope DORIS gets a longer honeymoon.
    Wouldn’t it have been great if this had been around in 2500 BC?
    “The first people arrived in the northernmost part of Greenland in around 2500 BC, and in the course of a few hundred years the ice-free part of the island became home to an Arctic tribe of hunters known as the Palaeo-Eskimos. The warmer climate which appeared once the ice had gone allowed the population to increase rapidly. ”
    “Towards the end of the 10th century the climate became warmer, and the change affected all those living in the northern hemisphere. Much of the ice in the seas around the Canadian archipelago disappeared, and baleen whales moved into the area to search for food. Eskimo whalers from northern Alaska sailed east in their large, skin-covered boats and reached Greenland in the 12th century.”
    A History of the Greenland climate from the Royal Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs:
    http://www.um.dk/Publikationer/UM/English/Denmark/kap7/7-1-19.asp#7-1-19

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