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Ice and beyond: climate science with CryoSat

This book invites teachers to explore some of the many scientific results from the CryoSat mission. The book describes key techniques of precise radar and SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) altimetry, and reviews state-of-the-art achievements. The book is intended as a living document, and will continue to capture new scientific research that uses satellite altimetry, in particular data from CryoSat, to deliver new insights.

The cryosphere is one of the most visible and responsive indicators of our changing climate. Over the last decades satellite observations have shown how Arctic sea ice extent has been decreasing steadily, glaciers have been retreating on a global scale, and the major icecaps in Greenland and Antarctica have seen a rapid increase in their melt-rates. Despite the key role played by the cryosphere in the global climate system, many important aspects of the changes remain poorly observed and largely unexplored, particularly in the remote and difficult to access polar regions. For example, with traditional satellite observations, the thickness (and thereby the volume) of the sea-ice is subject to large uncertainties, while the mass budget of icecaps is affected by large errors along their margins, where the largest changes take place.

In this context ESA, together with the scientific community, developed the CryoSat mission - ESA’s ice mission - to deliver precise measurements of sea-ice thickness and ice-cap changes. CryoSat, with its high-precision Synthetic Aperture Interferometric Radar Altimeter, delivers observations with unprecedented accuracy and resolution, and has helped scientists to better quantify the state of the cryosphere and narrow down the uncertainty in climate modeling.

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