Topic 3f - Ice: In-depth Case Study - Monitoring Ice Thickness

In this video, Professor Andrew Shepherd explores how improvements in Earth observation technology are increasingly advancing our ability to make accurate measurements of ice thickness and volume in the polar regions.

Layers of frozen seawater, known simply as sea ice, cover much of the Arctic Ocean. The extent of the sea ice cover grows dramatically in winter, and much of it melts each summer. There are also large inter-annual variations in overall sea ice cover, and an apparently downward trend potentially related to Earth’s changing climate. Advances in satellite technology have allowed us to map arctic sea ice extent over recent decades to examine this trend in higher detail than ever before. We can also examine sea ice thickness, which also varies substantially over location and time, and enables prediction of where ice cover will be maintained over the winter months.

ESA’s CryoSat-2 satellite, designed specifically to look at almost the entire polar regions, has revolutionised our understanding of sea ice thickness in the Arctic, and how it evolves over time. This is providing the essential data that we can use to improve our model simulations, helping us gauge potential future changes in this important component of the climate system.

Featured Educators:

  • Professor Andrew Shepherd

Optional Further Reading:

  • ESA - Sea Ice The role of sea ice in global ocean circulation and the climate system.

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