Yesterday at one of the EGU 2015 poster sessions I had a short chat with Tommasso Parrinello, the ESA's CryoSat-2 mission manager. He told me lots of useful improvements have been made in the past couple of months, and if all goes well the satellite can remain operational up to 2020 (no guarantees, of course), which means there will be an overlap with NASA's ICESat-2, allowing for an extended timeseries of sea ice thickness measurement data.
That's great stuff, but it gets better. The most interesting thing he told me - something a lot of us have been eagerly awaiting - is that soon near real-time sea ice thickness maps were going to be put out. He couldn't tell me how soon exactly, but as it turns out, it happened the next day, which is today. The maps can be found and viewed on the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling (University College of London) website:
These maps come with the following disclaimer: "Note that the 14 and 28-day sea ice thickness maps are processed from CryoSat Near Real Time (NRT) data. These are preliminary fast access products which do not use all the precise corrections available in the final products, available 30 days later. The archive of monthly sea ice thickness products use the precise final CryoSat data as soon as it is available."
The BBC had the scoop today:
'3D Cryosat' tracks Arctic winter sea iceBy Jonathan AmosScience correspondent, BBC News, Vienna
Although Arctic sea ice set a record this year for its lowest ever winter extent - that was not the case for its volume, new data reveals.
Europe's Cryosat spacecraft routinely monitors the thickness of floes in the far north.
The thinnest winter ice it has ever seen was in 2013. This February, in contrast, the Arctic floes were about 25cm (17%) thicker on average.
The long-term trend is, however, still downwards, the Cryosat team cautions.
Doing all of the data processing to produce thickness and volume numbers has been a time-consuming business for the Cryosat team, but the group is now able to turn out the information much faster than when the mission first launched in 2010. And to mark the spacecraft's fifth birthday in orbit, the team is switching on a new, near-real-time service to aid science and maritime activities.
This is a web portal where users can get information on sea-ice thickness no more than two days after Cryosat makes the observations.
It is not a full sweep of the entire Arctic. Rather, it is a series of samplings across the region that should give anyone working in the far north a clearer idea of the conditions they are likely to encounter.
"To navigate thick sea ice, icebreaker ships with strengthened and streamlined hulls are needed," explained Prof Andy Shepherd, the principal scientific advisor to the Cryosat mission.
"With Cryosat, we're now able to provide users of the Arctic with information on sea-ice thickness in rapid fashion, which will be a step change from what has gone before."
Read the entire article here.
Thanks go out to ESA and CPOM for producing and providing these near real-time sea ice thickness maps. Here's to hoping CryoSat-2 continues to be improved and stays afloat for a couple of bonus years.