Satellites Space

NASA satellite shows the shape and depth of the Antarctic ice fractures

Watching the earth’s surface from space is one of the most convenient ways of looking out for any disaster. After the satellite field’s rise, some of the world’s wonders are starting to make sense as experts to analyze the situation from the satellite images. An occurrence dates back to 2019, where a block of ice equaling Houston’s size, Texas, broke from Antarctica’s Amery Ice Shelf. Back then, scientists discussed what led to the ice-breaking, but no one spoke of what to expect from the incident. It has been in many experts’ minds wondering more about the incident for two years.

With the recent data from NASA‘s ICESat-2 satellite, experts can tell the ice fractures’ shape and depth. After analysis, a scientist can forecasts where and when the following calving events will happen. An assistant professor in Geography at Penn State, Shujie Wang, commented on the case claiming that Ice Shelves make up almost 75% of Antarctica’s coastline and buttress to hold back the land’s large glaciers.

In case the ice shelves keep collapsing, the Antarctica large glaciers will melt, flowing to the ocean, leading to increased sea level up to 200 feet. Shujie Wang explained that predicting Antarctica’s contribution to the sea level is almost impossible since no one can tell when an ice shelf will break and what size will break. It is the most considerable uncertainty that geographers and scientists are yet to confirm.

Wang claims that there no direct or straightforward way to map the depth of the ice fractures in the field depending on a regional scale. However, satellite data is a critical section that experts can use since recent reports claim that it can show the shape, depth and surface morphology of the ice fractures. With this data, experts can monitor the movements over an extensive range and prepare for emergency cases.

Wang’s team evaluated the data from NASA’s ICESat-2 over the ice fracture, which is almost equal to West Virginia, and the data dates back from October 2018 to November 2019. How does this satellite work? It sends green laser pulses to the land surface using the reflected photons to measure the surface height. Unlike other satellites with thousands of feet resolution, the ICESat has a 56-feet resolution that allows the product to view minor fractures.

Later, the research team took the data through an algorithm to characterize the ice fractures. In conclusion, the team came up with the Parabolic-shape, V-shaped fractures and U-shaped. Through the research, Wang confirmed that you could use satellite imagery to identify an area where the ice shelf is vulnerable and take the necessary measures.