“A decade ago, this year’s sea ice extent would have set a new record low and by a fair amount,” said Walt Meier, a sea ice scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “Now, we’re kind of used to these low levels of sea ice – it’s the new normal.”
“It’s melting earlier,” Meier says. “The ice is thinner, so it gets pushed around by the wind more. It’s more broken up. It used to be more of a big sheet of ice, and now [we’re seeing] chunks of ice.’
He adds that it is like going from “a big ice cube” to “crushed ice.”
“So now that scientists react to global warming with an almost charming amount of indifference (the ice caps are melting, this isn’t news), it’s about finding different ways to measure the amount of ice near our poles. When you’ve accepted something is a reality, the next thing you need to do is figure out how to observe it,” explains gizmodo.
While the thickness of the ice can be measured with vessels or submarines, the new quest is to measure it from orbit through satellites. However, the brine in the ocean water tends to make measuring with radar difficult.
NASA said that a satellite labelled ‘Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite-2’ (ICESat-2) will employ lasers and “a very precise detection instrument” to check how long it takes the laser to touch the earth and then rebound on the satellite.
While the satellite is about to launch in 2018, it can only measure some of what is required. Factors such as “above-water height versus below” need to be kept in mind.