The aim of this project is to validate CryoSat-2 measurements by investigating sea ice and land ice properties in the Pacific Sector of Antarctica. CryoSat-2 will be launched in February 2010 by the European Space Agency (ESA) and will measure the change in surface height of polar ice at better accuracy using new radar technology. The satellite is the replacement for CryoSat-1, which was lost due to a launch failure in 2005. It is expected that CryoSat measurements will significantly improve our understanding of present and future rates in sea level rise. A better knowledge of present day ice mass balance is urgently needed in the current political decision making process to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. This is a New Zealand initiative to support this decision making. In addition to the Cryosat-2 validation, this project will lead to a better understanding of other satellite radar data, which are the primary source of knowledge for the state of polar ice sheets and sea ice.
The investigation area is located in the vicinity of New Zealand’s Scott Base (77°51’S, 166°45’E, 14 m a.s.l.) at the junction between the East Antarctic Ice Sheet (EAIS), the Ross Ice Shelf, and the Ross Sea. In the McMurdo Sound area we find sea ice properties, which are not well investigated with respect to information retrieval from satellites, and poorly investigated in other places in Antarctica. Nevertheless, the sea ice formation processes found here in the vicinity of the Ross Ice Shelf and McMurdo Ice Shelf may be quite typical for Antarctica as a whole because about half of the Antarctic coastline is bordered by ice shelves. The outflow of very cold water from underneath the ice shelf favours the formation of frazil and platelet ice, ingredients which need a better understanding in order to reliably measure and predict changes in Antarctic sea ice coverage. For land ice, this area is favourable with respect to the investigation of reflected satellite signals, because a large variety of typical snow or ice surface types can be found within a reasonable short distance from Scott Base.