Recently NASA has launched a new space laser system – IceSat-2 with the aim to measure the ice sheets shape within the accuracy of 2 cm. This laser module is considered to be one of the most effective and powerful tool for the observation that has been put in the Earth orbit. At the present moment the fiber laser continues gathering information about our planet.
Moreover, IceSat-2 laser system collects not only the data about the shape of the ice sheets, but additional information about the height of the land, of rivers, lakes and forests. It is interesting that the laser is mapping even 30m seafloor depth.
IceSat-2 was launched at the end of September and had only one tool that was half-tonne green laser system that fired about 10,000 pulses of light every second.
Also all these shots reach the Earth and goes back on a timescale of about 3.3 milliseconds.
Scientists from NASA plan to use this laser system for the observation of elevation changes in Antarctica and Greenland that can be an evidence of melting process. Also this new fiber laser system has the great advantage because it is able to detect the areas that have been unseen earlier by previous satellites. At the present time it is possible to detect every valley glaciers in the mountains. It was difficult to do in the past because satellites used radars instead of laser systems and they could demonstrate only a huge lump at the site of the mountains.
IceSat-2 is not a new project, but the continuation of IceSat-1 mission that has greatly helped in the further research. IceSat-1 measured sea-ice volume in the Arctic that included sensing the height difference between the top point of floating floes and the ocean surface. The main aim of the mission is the calculation of the ice part that is below water. However, the measurement needs to find out the cracks in floes and only then it can be made. Fortunately, new fiber laser system allows making the process easier because of the horizontal footprint of the laser module that equals about 25-30 m.
It should be mentioned that the resolution of IceSat-2 laser system plays a very important role as 80 % of all cracks in floes are less than 50 m across and researchers require detailed data. Thus, the accuracy of the laser measurement reaches a little over 2 cm.
This laser module also enables to collect data about forested areas. It is able to detect the tree canopy and the ground underneath and, finally, this information allows scientists to estimate the amount of carbon kept in vegetation across the Earth. Moreover, the laser system is suspected to be able to calculate the depth of shallow coastal waters, but not so efficient.
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