Arctic & Antarctica
LANCASTER UNIVERSITY

New Satellite Keeps Close Watch On Antarctic Ice Loss

A recently-launched satellite mission has captured precision data on the elevation of the Antarctic ice sheet proving a valuable addition to monitoring efforts in the region, according to work published this week in The Cryosphere.

From its orbit 815 km above the Earth, the Sentinel-3 satellite was able to detect the height of the ice surface to within tens of centimetres , tests carried out at the remote Lake Vostok validation site in East Antarctica showed.

The study, led by researchers from the new joint Lancaster University-CEH Centre of Excellence in Environmental Data Science (CEEDS), alongside European Space Agency (ESA) and industry partners, shows the potential of Sentinel-3 - one of the EU Copernicus satellite missions - to contribute towards long-term ice sheet monitoring programmes.

The scientists also found that Sentinel-3 could detect areas where the ice surface was rapidly lowering, thereby establishing the satellite's credentials as a new platform which can help to monitor Antarctica's contribution to sea level rise.

Determining how well Sentinel-3 functions over ice sheets is particularly important given that CryoSat-2, ESA's dedicated polar mission, is already operating well beyond its planned lifetime.

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