Unpiloted drone to investigate ice caps

Melting sea ice was mentioned here recently. According to the MIT Technology Review, a team at the University of Kansas is building an unpiloted airplane designed to conduct detailed RADAR surveys of the Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets. In particular, the plane will look to see whether water has collected between glaciers and bedrock – a situation that can lead to their very rapid disintegration.

If things go according to plan the vehicle – dubbed ‘Meridian’ – should conduct its first survey next summer. Given the potential importance of melting ice for climatic feedback loops, anything that improves the quality of data available should be applauded.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

8 thoughts on “Unpiloted drone to investigate ice caps”

  1. See also:

    “A new, ultralight aircraft made from carbon fiber has beaten the standing world record for longest unmanned flight, according to its manufacturer. It has a 60-foot (18-meter) wingspan, weighs 66 pounds (30 kilograms) and is launched by hand. Snip from National Geographic report”


  2. Record Loss of Arctic Sea Ice Cover

    * The U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center has reported that there is less sea ice in the Arctic than ever before and that the melting is continuing. The Climate Research Division of Environment Canada also monitors the sea ice cover over the Arctic as well as Canadian Waters. Climate research scientists in the Division have been aware of this rapid deterioration of the Arctic ice cover for the last several weeks. Estimates of sea ice extent, based on satellite imagery, are made every week. Regional ice cover over Canada is also analyzed to determine the most recent trends. This information is posted on the State of the Canadian Cryosphere website each week (http://www.socc.ca/).

    * The analysis indicates that, as of August 18, 2007, Northern Hemisphere sea ice extent is 5.27 million square kilometers. This is below the record low ice cover which occurred in the summer of 2005 and the progression of melt is 4 weeks ahead of normal (see fig 1). Sea-ice coverage has now reached the lowest value observed in the last 50 years for which reliable sea ice records exist.

    * The regions of greatest sea ice loss are on the Eurasian side of the Artic Ocean (the Chukchi, Siberian, and Laptev Seas) but sea ice extent in the Canadian Arctic is also below normal (fig 2). This latest decline in sea ice extent is consistent with the general consensus in the sea ice community that the loss of sea ice is accelerating and anthropogenic climate warming is one of the main causes.

  3. Covering 1.59 million square miles (4.12 million square kilometers), this summer’s sea ice shattered the previous record for the smallest ice cap of 2.05 million square miles (5.31 million square kilometers) in 2005—a further loss of sea ice area equivalent to the states of California and Texas combined.

    “The sea ice cover this year has reached a new record low,” says Mark Serreze, senior research scientist at the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo. “It’s not just that we beat the old record, we annihilated it.”

  4. The View from Above: Using RADARSAT Satellite Technology to Monitor Sea Ice

    Ice monitoring is also important for identifying changing ice conditions relevant to long-term climate issues. For example, RADARSAT-1 satellite images taken of Ellesmere Island and its surrounding ice between early August and mid August 2005 showed that a massive section of the Ayles Ice Shelf had broken away. The changing Arctic landscape can continue to be monitored closely through the use of RADARSAT data.

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