Satellite maps arctic sea ice levels

April 24, 2012 at 7:17 PM
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LONDON, April 24 (UPI) -- Data from a European satellite have yielded a seasonal variation map of Arctic sea-ice thickness, vital to climate change research, researchers say.

Results from the European Space Agency's CryoSat mission were presented Tuesday at the Royal Society in London, an ESA release reported.

Data from the 2010-11 winter season have been processed to produce a seasonal variation map of sea-ice thickness. CryoSat's altimeter makes precise measurements of its height above the ice by measuring the time interval between the transmission and reception of very short radar pulses, scientists said, to provide measurements of sea ice thickness.

Every year, the Arctic Ocean experiences seasonal formation and then melting of vast amounts of floating ice, but for the past decade satellites have seen acceleration in the rate of overall sea ice loss.

This will have a global impact, not just on climate but on countries' exploration and commercial activities in the arctic, researchers said.

"In the coming years, the Arctic will become a very important geopolitical region," Volker Liebig, director of ESA's Earth Observation Programs, said.

Liebig said 15 percent to 20 per cent of the world's oil and gas reserves are expected in the region "and we will find shorter shipping routes as the ice melts. Satellites will play and ever-important role in the sustainable management of this sensitive region."

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