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NASA satellites see Arctic surface darkening faster

18 February 2014

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The retreat of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean is diminishing Earth's albedo, or reflectivity, by an amount considerably larger than previously estimated, according to a new study that uses data from instruments that fly aboard several NASA satellites.

The study, conducted by researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, at the University of California, San Diego, uses data from the Clouds and Earth's Radiant Energy System, or CERES, instrument. There are CERES instruments aboard NASA's Tropical Rainfall Measurement Mission, or TRMM, satellite, Terra, Aqua and NASA-NOAA's Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi NPP) satellites. The first CERES instrument was launched in December of 1997 aboard TRMM.

As the sea ice melts, its white reflective surface is replaced by a relatively dark ocean surface. This diminishes the amount of sunlight being reflected back to space, causing Earth to absorb an increasing amount of solar energy.

Source: NASA

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