Around 250 million measurements taken by CryoSat between 2010 and 2016 were used to create the most comprehensive 3D picture of Antarctic ice currently available. The satellite’s orbit takes it to latitudes within 200 km of the north and south poles – closer than other Earth observation satellites - which allows CryoSat’s radar altimeter to detect tiny variations in the height of the ice across the entire continent, including on the steeper continental margins where the vast majority of ice losses occur. The mission is also used to map changes in the thickness of ice floating in the polar oceans, which is particularly important for the Arctic.
The satellite measurements allow scientists to distinguish between changes in topography and ice motion when working with other satellite measurements, such as those used to calculate the balance between how much the ice sheet is gaining by accumulating snow and losing through melting and creating icebergs. The model will soon be freely available via the CPOM portal, which already provides information on sea-ice volume and thickness, ice velocity and, shortly, ice sheets. In the meantime, the model can be downloaded.