In DepthEarth Science

NASA space laser targets melting poles

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Science  14 Sep 2018:
Vol. 361, Issue 6407, pp. 1058
DOI: 10.1126/science.361.6407.1058

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NASA is expected this month to launch its newest sentinel to monitor the melting poles, the $1 billion Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat-2). Nowhere are the realities of human-driven climate change more apparent than at Earth's thawing poles, yet for nearly a decade, NASA has lacked a dedicated satellite to measure how high the polar ice is piled—and how it is subsiding as ice melts or slides into the oceans. ICESat-2 will bounce three pairs of parallel laser beams continuously off the planet, collecting the reflection with sensitive vacuum tubes. Its dense, frequent coverage and high resolution should help detect minute changes in inland ice sheets and shelves, along with the thinning of Arctic and Antarctic sea ice.