ICESat-2's Eye on Ice

  • Released Monday, September 10, 2018

Ice is being lost across the globe, especially in the polar regions. The continental ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica are shedding ice to the oceans and raising sea level. Arctic sea ice is less than half its 1980s volume. Fundamentally changing the Arctic, this ice loss may also be affecting North American and global weather. In September 2018, NASA is launching the Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) to measure changes in Earth’s ice and improve forecasts of the global impacts of these changes. With its fast-firing laser, the satellite will collect information enabling scientists to calculate—to within fractions of an inch—how much the vast ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland rise or fall each year. ICESat-2 will take measurements across the globe and provide an incredibly precise height map of our planet in unprecedented detail. Its focus will be on Earth’s poles, including the Arctic region where temperatures are rising faster than at other latitudes. Watch the videos to learn more.

Arctic sea ice is disappearing. Its minimum extent in 2017 was well below the average minimum from 1981-2010 shown by the yellow line.

Arctic sea ice is disappearing. Its minimum extent in 2017 was well below the average minimum from 1981-2010 shown by the yellow line.

White ice reflects sunlight away from Earth. When it disappears, the oceans and land absorb more sunlight, raising temperatures.

White ice reflects sunlight away from Earth. When it disappears, the oceans and land absorb more sunlight, raising temperatures.

ICESat-2's laser provides data on the height of ice on land and sea, giving scientists data to calculate the ice’s thickness and volume.

ICESat-2's laser provides data on the height of ice on land and sea, giving scientists data to calculate the ice’s thickness and volume.

Height data will also be collected on forests across the world, which will help researchers estimate global vegetation.

Height data will also be collected on forests across the world, which will help researchers estimate global vegetation.

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Release date

This page was originally published on Monday, September 10, 2018.
This page was last updated on Wednesday, May 3, 2023 at 1:46 PM EDT.


Missions

This visualization is related to the following missions: