CRYO2ICE: ESA and NASA work together to measure ice

on 13 August 2020

ESA’s CryoSat-2 and NASA’s ICESat-2 satellites were brought together for an unique campaign: CRYO2ICE.

ESA changed the orbit of the CryoSat-2 satellite to align periodically with ICESat-2. This will provide almost simultaneous radar and lidar measurements of the same ice.

The resulting data will allow scientists to measure snow depth from space on both sea and land, improving the accuracy of sea-ice thickness measurements and ice-sheet elevation time series. The measurements will also help map snow over the poles and advance our understanding of currents in polar oceans, with further applications expected in the study of inland waters and the atmosphere.

While CryoSat’s radar penetrates through the snow layer and reflects closely off the ice below, ICESat-2’s laser reflects off the top of the snow layer. Blending simultaneous satellite laser and radar readings means that snow depth can be measured directly from space for the first time.

Knowing the depth of the overlying snow will improve the accuracy of sea-ice thickness measurements and improve our knowledge of how snow and ice surfaces, with different physical properties, scatter back the signal from the instruments.

More details about this project can be found at this link.

Image credit: J. Harbeck/IceBridge