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NASA’s New Satellite

NASA's New Satellite is tracking Earth's melting ice

NASA+Satellite
NASA Satellite

NASA Satellite

via NASA Sea Level Change

via NASA Sea Level Change

NASA Satellite

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Around the world, Earth’s ice is melting and as the climate gradually gets warmer, sea levels rise. How can people find out how much ice is left? NASA has all the data, with their new satellite technology that can pinpoint how and where ice is melting just by using lasers. Although this satellite is costly, around a billion dollars, NASA claims that this satellite will allow humans to have a stronger vision of how fast Earth’s ice is melting, which will be backed by plenty of data. This satellite is named ICESat-2, standing for Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite-2 and although it is the size of a smart car, it has six laser beams which can calculate so precisely that the measurements can be down to the nearest centimeter. This tool is specified as the Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter, or ATLAS, and will be able to measure the height and slope of the ice. Although this is a big feat, an obstacle they are facing is measuring the density of the ice, which is a significant factor. When storms hit, the ice can break easily because of the weak ice. It will be in orbit for ninety-one days, calculating how ice changes in each of the four seasons.

With this new laser technology, scientists can see what reaction the ice has to atmospheric and oceanic changes. These observations can lead to their knowledge of what is causing the melting in one area or another. Glaciology professor Helen Fricker worked on the ICESat-2 project and knew that warmer climate would lead to a higher sea level, but she is trying to figure out just how much ice that we will lose from the rising temperature. A study shows that in the past quarter of a century, the effects of global warming in Antarctica were monumental, causing three trillion tons of ice to melt, which is 3,000,000,000,000  pounds. There aren’t even people classified as trillionaires, having trillions of dollars. No single person has ever in history reached even 100 billion dollars. Due to the melting ice in both Greenland and Antarctica, the sea level around the world rises over a millimeter a year, about a third of the total increase.

ICESat-2 was launched September 15, 2018, at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, and can process how much ice the world is melting. Tom Neumann talks about how ICESat-2 is capable of collecting sixty thousand measurements in one second, approximately two blinks of an eye. Estimates can be made of how the height of the ice sheets will change every year, even if it is as small as four millimeters. Thorsten Markus believes that the best part of the process is when they receive the first data after turning on the laser. The laser satellite’s six beams will collect this data every hour, every day, and around the middle of October, data from the spacecraft will be available for scientists in NASA to collaborate and work on analyzing the data that ICESat-2 has collected.

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NASA’s New Satellite