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CryoSat conquers ice on Arctic lakes

05 August 2019

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The rapidly changing climate in the Arctic is not only linked to melting glaciers and declining sea ice, but also to thinning ice on lakes. The presence of lake ice can be easily monitored by imaging sensors and standard satellite observations, but now adding to its list of achievements, CryoSat can be used to measure the thickness of lake ice – another indicator of climate change.

CryoSat, one of ESA's Earth Explorer satellites, carries the first radar altimeter of its kind. The instrument is traditionally used to determine the thickness of sea ice floating in oceans and to monitor changes in vast ice sheets on land, providing evidence of Earth's diminishing polar ice.

Lakes in North America's Arctic and sub-Arctic regions cover between 15% and 40% of the landscape, and play an important role in the region's climate. They are also a vital resource for both society and an important habitat for aquatic wildlife.

Used as a platform for activities such as fishing, hunting and travel, knowledge of ice thickness is important for assessing safety. Monitoring changes in water volume and levels are also important for the supply of water for domestic, commercial and industrial use.

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