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NASA’s IceSat Maps Depth Of Water From Orbit Through Laser

Scientists have stated that NASA’s recently-launched Earth observers would be having a tremendous impact in areas that were totally unexpected. NASA’s IceSat-2 mission was developed and launched in 2018 for measuring the shape and size of Greenland and Antarctica and for tracking the Arctic’s sea-ice’s thickness.

However, early results have also shown a capability for sending water depths, which is a good sign. The laser light of IceSat is capable of penetrating over 40 m in clear conditions, which could lead the way for the development of many applications.

Dr. Parrish of Oregon University stated that although people consider every area on the Earth to have been well-mapped already, that’s not true when it comes to shallow water regions. There are many data voids out to around 5 m water depth from the coastal shore line. This prevents them from being able to research things such as coral reef changes, major storm effects, and inundation.

A research project is already underway for mapping the seafloor area around Pacific atolls and islands that will aid tsunami preparedness systems, for instance.

This capability will also enable scientists in working out inland water body volumes, which will help in quantifying the freshwater reserves available on the planet.IceSat-2’s launch took place in Sept 2018. Only a single instrument was loaded in it – a half ton green laser named Atlas, which fired 10000 light pulses per second.

Each shot went to the Earth’s surface and bounced back within milliseconds. The time taken helped in knowing the reflecting surface’s height. Scientists decided to utilize this tape measure for determining elevation levels in Greenland and Antarctica, which could indicate melting.

Assessment of forest cover was also among the mission’s objectives since the laser light would help reveal the heights of trees by reflecting off of canopies. However, researchers were unaware that the prospects for bathymetry research would be so conducive.

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