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CryoSat-2 To Receive Ice-Bound Research Support

Artist's impression of CryoSat-2. Image credit: ESA
by Staff Writers
Paris, France (SPX) May 01, 2006
Students from Climate Change College will assist European scientists in validating the ability of ESA's CryoSat-2 to measure changes in the Greenland ice sheet. Led by Dutch polar explorer Marc Cornelissen, the students will set up camp this week on the ice at point T05 on the Expédition Glaciologique Internationale Groenland line.

"Having these students take part in CryoSat campaign activities is the result of a unique collaboration between ESA and the Climate Change College," said Malcolm Davidson, CryoSat Validation Manager. "The students will contribute to the fieldwork by taking and analyzing snow and ice samples on the ground along side the UK scientists already in place."

ESA approved building and launching CryoSat-2 last February, after the first CryoSat launch failed in October 2005. The mission's objectives will remain the same, space agency officials said in a statement Friday: to measure ice thickness on both land and sea very precisely to provide conclusive proof as to whether there a trend towards diminishing polar ice cover, furthering our understanding of the relationship between ice and global climate.

The mission requires on-ground measurements, however, so scientists - assisted by the students - will attempt to verify changes in ice thickness over time. Despite its state-of-the-art technology, a number of potential sources of error still could creep into CrySat's data, ESA said in a statement. For example, the signal the satellite receives is sensitive to changes in the properties of the snow and ice. Therefore it is crucial to understand - and correct if necessary - any seasonal changes that occur naturally.

To simulate CryoSat's surveys, an Air Greenland Twin Otter, coordinated by the Danish National Space Center, will make airborne passes over the ice sheet carrying the same ASIRAS radar altimeter as CryoSat. Scientists will then process the airborne data and compare it to the measurements on the ground.

"The key to the success of the campaign activities is to coordinate all the ground and airborne experiments," said the DNSC's Sine Hvidegaard. "This means, for instance, that the planes have to fly very precise tracks so that the measurements taken from the plane match those taken by the scientists on the ground. If we are more than 10 meters off track, all the data and efforts are wasted - this is quite a challenge for us." Cornelissen, with around 15 years experience exploring the Arctic, said he is passionate about the polar environment and dedicated to bringing about awareness of the environment and contributing to a better understanding of climate change. This is what led him to initiate the Climate Change College, located in England and the Netherlands, and sponsored by ice cream magnates Ben and Jerry and the World Wildlife Fund. The aim of the college is to give students the opportunity to experience first-hand the Arctic environment and the skills to articulate climate-change issues for businesses and the public. "I really look forward to taking the students to a region where climate change is affecting the local Inuit culture and where scientists work under challenging conditions to better understand the scale and global impacts of climate change," Cornelissen said. "This experience is exactly what they need to become convincing climate change ambassadors."

The group currently is making their way to the Arctic. They will stop at Kangerlussuaq in Greenland, then travel through to Ilulissat, arriving at T05 on May 3.

Related Links
Climate Change College

10 States Sue US To Regulate Greenhouse Gases
Washington (AFP) May 01, 2006
Ten US states and two cities sued the US government on Thursday to force it to regulate gases blamed for global climate change, said environmental groups who joined the suit.

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