NASA tracks glacier melt over the past 17 years with lasers

NASA has tracked the melting of glaciers over the past 17 years with lasers. By working with big data, scientists can analyze the long-term behavior of the cover on the continent.

This system uses space lasers that measure glaciers and tracks their ever-changing shape. Now the U.S. Space Agency has launched two altimeter devices. The first of these, IceSat, worked from 2003 to 2009; the second, IceSat-2 – since 2018.

Combining the results of the two devices, scientists discovered the growth of glaciers in the eastern part of Antarctica but noticed that the ice in the western part is rapidly melting. Losses led to a sea-level rise of 14 mm in 17 years.

“When working with data over a long period of time, we can worry much less about the short-term behavior of glaciers. It is more important for us to analyze the long-term behavior of the ice sheet and not to take into account the data that affect the continent for a short time. Data for 16 years gives us a clear picture, ”the researchers note.

In total, about 200 gigatons of ice disappears annually in Greenland, and 118 gigatons in Antarctica. One gigaton is equal to 109 tons, such an amount of ice would be enough to fill 400 thousand Olympic pools.

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