Following on from the expedition to Greenland at the end of 2016 as part of an international effort to develop new space technology to monitor our changing polar environment, a new field campaign is underway in Antarctica.

Tânia Casal, ESA Earth Observation Campaign Coordinator, is currently on her way to join the team in Antarctica and sends her first blog on the campaign:

Punta Arenas, Chile. (T. Casal)

This is our first CryoVEX/KAREN campaign in Antarctica. ESA’s CryoSat delivers vital information about how the thickness of Earth’s ice is changing. To do this, the satellite carries a radar altimeter, but now we want to find out if an altimeter that works using two wavelengths would provide even better information.

The campaign involves taking measurements from aircraft and on the ice to compare with measurements from CryoSat and from the French-Indian AltiKa mission. The two satellites both carry radar altimeters, but use different bands. CryoSat uses the Ku-band (around 2.2 cm) and AltiKa uses the Ka-band (around 8 mm).

We need to understand how a two-wavelength radar altimeter could offer continuity and improve the current single-wavelength measurements provided by CryoSat

The campaign involves collecting airborne and in-situ measurements to see how the different radars penetrate the snow and firn. The campaign setup is very similar to the earlier campaign in the Arctic. The reason why we are now focusing on Antarctica is because the snow is completely different here.

Alex Coccia from MetaSensing and penguin. (MetaSensing)

Alex Coccia from MetaSensing and Arne Olesen from DTU kicked off the campaign on 20 December 2017. So they spent Christmas and New Year at the British Antarctic Survey base in Rothera on Adelaide Island, to the west of the Antarctic Peninsula.

So far, the weather there has been very good so they have been able to complete most of the planned flights over the sea ice.

CryoVEX/KAREN sea-ice flight lines. (ESA)

I am currently on my way there – it takes time though! I’m in Punta Arenas in Chile where I’m meeting up with the team from the Leeds University (UK) before we head off to Rothera. We should be on our way today!

Read more about CryoSat

From ESA’s Tânia Casal on route to Antarctica