Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Measuring ice depth

It's a good job The Science is settled, otherwise Pen Hadow might be feeling a bit of a prat right now:

Arctic explorers Pen Hadow, Ann Daniels and Martin Hartley have three days' food left on half rations as they wait for a supply plane.

They are uncomfortable but safe after poor weather halted resupply plans.
They are in the Arctic to... well, there are slightly different versions of why they're there.

The severe weather is jeopardizing a journey aimed at projecting when global warming may melt the entire Arctic Ocean cap, a phenomenon that scientists say might trigger further gains in temperature.

Hadow, Ann Daniels and Martin Hartley are 18 days into their 100-day, 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) journey to the pole, during which they planned to use a custom radar to take as many as 13 million ice-thickness measurements. They aim to help scientists gauge how quickly the Arctic sea ice is thinning.

Previous estimates of melting have been based on less reliable depth soundings made by satellites and submarines, which can’t distinguish ice from snow. Scientists have made few surface measurements that are highly accurate because of difficulties in traveling on the ice cap.
The new radar sounds impressive, but far more so is the fact they have a new technique, apparently, that allows them to determine rate of change from a single measurement.

Hadow's own website does little to disabuse us of this idea:
In February 2009, Pen will embark on what will probably become the most high profile expedition of recent times – the Catlin Arctic Survey. Using ground-breaking* technology, Pen plans to make the first accurate measurements of the true thickness of the Arctic Ice Cap, something that satellites and submarines are unable to do.

Working with some of the foremost scientific bodies in the world, including NASA, the WWF, the European Space Agency (ESA), the UK Met Office, and the University of Cambridge, the Catlin Arctic Survey’s data will help define the likely meltdown date of the ice cap, vital in helping plan for the inevitable geo-political consequences.
The BBC makes a little more sense:
Mr Hadow, 46, Mrs Daniels, 44, and Mr Hartley, 40, will attempt to get base figures from which to measure changes in the thickness of the ice.
Base figures. So before they can be any use there'd have to be a further expedition.

Let's wish Hadow luck in this important work, and hope the supply aircraft gets through the unexpected Arctic blizzards in time to help measure the expected warming.

* Brave folk, to use such equipment on an ice cap.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

When do you think that the meaning of the word "explorer" became "exhibitionist tit"?