Satellite imagery helps track melting ice and rising sea levels

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Satellite imagery helps track melting ice and rising sea levels

As scientists continue to investigate the phenomenon of global warming, one area they’re studying closely is sea levels. Melting ice from the Earth’s glaciers and icecaps can cause sea levels to rise. Now, with the help of satellite imagery, there’s a way to measure the speed of ice flow into the world’s oceans.

CGTN’s Hendrik Sybrandy gave us this report from the U.S. state of Colorado.

Satellite imagery helps track melting ice and rising sea levels

Satellite imagery helps track melting ice and rising sea levels

As scientists continue to investigate the phenomenon of global warming, one area they're studying closely is sea levels. Melting ice from the Earth's glaciers and icecaps can cause sea levels to rise. Now, with the help of satellite imagery, there's a way to measure the speed of ice flow into the world's oceans. CGTN's Hendrik Sybrandy gave us this report from the U.S. state of Colorado.
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Ted Scambos of the National Snow and Ice Data Center says ice is on the move right now in Greenland, Antarctica and on mountain ranges around the world.

“If you look at pictures of glaciers you really get a sense of how they’re just draining off the mountainside and out down to the coast.”

He has the pictures to prove it. These high-resolution images map the speed of a number of different glaciers and ice sheets. They come from Landsat 8, an orbiting satellite that snaps 700 photos per day and can cover the entire globe in a little over two weeks.

It’s part of the Global Land Ice Velocity Extraction Project, or GoLIVE, a U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration-funded effort aimed at better understanding how ice flow is changing on Earth and its impact on sea levels.

“It helps us understand one of the big components of sea level rise which is glaciers flowing into the sea or glaciers melting,” said Scambos.

He says ice flow has sped up in recent years. The GoLIVE team uses software that helps track ice features in great detail. Special satellite imaging allows researchers to pick up ice shading and textures.

Marin Klinger, an associate scientist with the National Snow & Ice Data Center, says there’s a lot of data – about 50 terabytes worth.

Klinger downloads and processes all that data with the help of a supercomputer at the University of Colorado.

“We’re mapping it all in almost near real time. Almost a weekly basis. We can do it so quickly.”

And the volume of images allows changes in glaciers to be picked up quickly and studied by climate scientists around the world.

Scambos says it’s another weapon in the arsenal for researchers as they try to understand Earth’s forces at work, not just over a period of decades, but today. Hendrik Sybrandy, CGTN, Denver.