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National Aeronautics and
Space Administration
Understanding Earth’s
Cold Regions
NASA–ISRO SAR Mission
NISAR will measure changes in glacier and ice sheet motion,
sea ice, and permafrost to determine how global climate and ice
masses interrelate and how melting of land ice raises sea level.
ice cover is decreasing drastically and may vanish entirely
within the next decades. The loss of sea ice cover will have a
profound effect on life, climate, and commercial activities in the
Arctic, while the loss of land ice will impact an important source
of water for millions of people. Collectively, these effects mean
that despite its remote location, changes in ice have global
economic and health implications as climate changes.
Impacts of Earth’s Remote Ice
Perhaps you imagine the polar ice
sheets as icy white blankets at the
ends of the Earth, static and majestic,
but far removed from your daily life.
In reality, these areas are among the
most dynamic and rapidly changing
places on Earth, where wind and
currents move ice over the seas,
and the forces of gravity disgorge
huge icebergs to the ocean. These
distant changes have very real local
consequences of climate feedbacks
and rising sea level.
Frozen
Ground
Snow Cover
Lake and
River Ice
Glaciers
Sea
Ice Ice Shelf
Sea
Level Rise
Assessing Society’s Exposure to Diminishing Ice
For over a hundred years, scientists have considered diminishing
glaciers and sea ice to be an early indicator of climate change.
At the same time, ice sheets and glaciers are already melting
fast enough to be the largest contributors to sea level rise, with
a potential to raise sea level by several tens of centimeters or
more in the coming century. Satellite observations collected
over the past three decades now show that the summer sea
The NISAR Mission — All-Weather Day and Night Imaging
Orbiting radar captures extent and motions of land and sea ice over time and with enough detail
to reveal subtle changes. Radar penetrates clouds and operates day and night. It produces images that
are detailed enough to see local changes, and has broad enough coverage to measure regional trends.
The NASA–ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) mission, a collaboration between the National
Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), will
acquire images of ice sheets, glaciers, and sea ice globally. Rapid sampling over years to decades will
allow for understanding flow and changes over time. NISAR’s unprecedented coverage in space and time
will reveal response of ice masses far more comprehensively than any other measurement method. The
detailed observations will reveal information that will allow us to better manage resources and prepare for
and cope with global change.
continued on back page
Artist’s concept
Ice Sheet
For more information, visit: http://nisar.jpl.nasa.gov
JPL 400-1565 Rev. 1 12/16
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
California Institute of Technology
Pasadena, California
www.nasa.gov
Mapping Ice Sheet Flow
Radar measurements from the
Canadian RADARSAT mission show
the rapid speed up of Jakobshavn
Isbræ in Greenland between February
1992 and October 2000. Over the
last decade, glaciers in Greenland
have sped up on average by more
than 30 percent. NISAR will allow
monitoring of ice sheets in Antarctica
and Greenland as well as glaciers
throughout the world.
The images are from Ian Joughin,
Waleed Abdalati, and Mark
Fahnestock, “Large Fluctuations in
Speed on Greenland’s Jakobshavn
Isbrae Glacier,” Nature 432 (2004):
pp. 608–610.
The economic impact of sea level rise on the US will exceed $20B.
Improving Sea Level Projections
Disintegrating ice sheets and retreating glaciers raise sea level,
yet predicting future sea level changes is difficult at present.
Rising sea level will displace millions of people and adaptation
will be costly. Recent observations provide only isolated
snapshots of ice sheet velocity and changes, and current
missions map large-scale ice sheet changes while missing
many fast moving glaciers with large thinning rates. NISAR will
provide systematic measurements allowing short-term variations
and long-term trends to be measured. NISAR will provide a
time history of ice sheet and glacier behavior including flow
and conditions at the base of the ice. It will provide precise
measurement of the changing ice sheet grounding lines.
Understanding ice sheet and glacier behavior, changes, and
stability will improve projections of sea level rise from melting
glaciers and ice sheets. Accurate sea-level projection will
improve planning of sea walls, dikes, and other adaptation and
mitigation strategies.
Tracking Sea Ice and Monitoring Permafrost
Arctic sea ice has thinned and its summer extent has reduced
by as much 50 percent over the last several decades. By
contrast, sea ice extent in the Southern Ocean may be
increasing, but there is very little information regarding its
deformation and thickness distribution. The thinning and
retreating Arctic ice cover is changing the economy of local
communities by causing a shift in the patterns of marine ecology
and an increase in winds and waves, as well as stimulating
interest in petroleum development and shipping. NISAR will
provide key data necessary to make informed environmental
and economic decisions. NISAR will provide the most complete
measurements of rapidly changing sea ice motion and estimates
of thickness of both polar regions. Understanding the causes
and mechanisms of its loss requires knowledge of sea ice
dynamics, ice thickness distribution, and sea ice types. Melting
permafrost releases methane to the atmosphere, erodes
soil, and impacts surface water distribution and stability of
infrastructure. NISAR will measure heave and thaw in the near-
surface active layer of permafrost.
continued from front page
Copyright 2016 California Institute of Technology. U.S. Government sponsorship acknowledged.

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NISAR NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) Cryosphere

  • 1. National Aeronautics and Space Administration Understanding Earth’s Cold Regions NASA–ISRO SAR Mission NISAR will measure changes in glacier and ice sheet motion, sea ice, and permafrost to determine how global climate and ice masses interrelate and how melting of land ice raises sea level. ice cover is decreasing drastically and may vanish entirely within the next decades. The loss of sea ice cover will have a profound effect on life, climate, and commercial activities in the Arctic, while the loss of land ice will impact an important source of water for millions of people. Collectively, these effects mean that despite its remote location, changes in ice have global economic and health implications as climate changes. Impacts of Earth’s Remote Ice Perhaps you imagine the polar ice sheets as icy white blankets at the ends of the Earth, static and majestic, but far removed from your daily life. In reality, these areas are among the most dynamic and rapidly changing places on Earth, where wind and currents move ice over the seas, and the forces of gravity disgorge huge icebergs to the ocean. These distant changes have very real local consequences of climate feedbacks and rising sea level. Frozen Ground Snow Cover Lake and River Ice Glaciers Sea Ice Ice Shelf Sea Level Rise Assessing Society’s Exposure to Diminishing Ice For over a hundred years, scientists have considered diminishing glaciers and sea ice to be an early indicator of climate change. At the same time, ice sheets and glaciers are already melting fast enough to be the largest contributors to sea level rise, with a potential to raise sea level by several tens of centimeters or more in the coming century. Satellite observations collected over the past three decades now show that the summer sea The NISAR Mission — All-Weather Day and Night Imaging Orbiting radar captures extent and motions of land and sea ice over time and with enough detail to reveal subtle changes. Radar penetrates clouds and operates day and night. It produces images that are detailed enough to see local changes, and has broad enough coverage to measure regional trends. The NASA–ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) mission, a collaboration between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), will acquire images of ice sheets, glaciers, and sea ice globally. Rapid sampling over years to decades will allow for understanding flow and changes over time. NISAR’s unprecedented coverage in space and time will reveal response of ice masses far more comprehensively than any other measurement method. The detailed observations will reveal information that will allow us to better manage resources and prepare for and cope with global change. continued on back page Artist’s concept Ice Sheet
  • 2. For more information, visit: http://nisar.jpl.nasa.gov JPL 400-1565 Rev. 1 12/16 National Aeronautics and Space Administration Jet Propulsion Laboratory California Institute of Technology Pasadena, California www.nasa.gov Mapping Ice Sheet Flow Radar measurements from the Canadian RADARSAT mission show the rapid speed up of Jakobshavn Isbræ in Greenland between February 1992 and October 2000. Over the last decade, glaciers in Greenland have sped up on average by more than 30 percent. NISAR will allow monitoring of ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland as well as glaciers throughout the world. The images are from Ian Joughin, Waleed Abdalati, and Mark Fahnestock, “Large Fluctuations in Speed on Greenland’s Jakobshavn Isbrae Glacier,” Nature 432 (2004): pp. 608–610. The economic impact of sea level rise on the US will exceed $20B. Improving Sea Level Projections Disintegrating ice sheets and retreating glaciers raise sea level, yet predicting future sea level changes is difficult at present. Rising sea level will displace millions of people and adaptation will be costly. Recent observations provide only isolated snapshots of ice sheet velocity and changes, and current missions map large-scale ice sheet changes while missing many fast moving glaciers with large thinning rates. NISAR will provide systematic measurements allowing short-term variations and long-term trends to be measured. NISAR will provide a time history of ice sheet and glacier behavior including flow and conditions at the base of the ice. It will provide precise measurement of the changing ice sheet grounding lines. Understanding ice sheet and glacier behavior, changes, and stability will improve projections of sea level rise from melting glaciers and ice sheets. Accurate sea-level projection will improve planning of sea walls, dikes, and other adaptation and mitigation strategies. Tracking Sea Ice and Monitoring Permafrost Arctic sea ice has thinned and its summer extent has reduced by as much 50 percent over the last several decades. By contrast, sea ice extent in the Southern Ocean may be increasing, but there is very little information regarding its deformation and thickness distribution. The thinning and retreating Arctic ice cover is changing the economy of local communities by causing a shift in the patterns of marine ecology and an increase in winds and waves, as well as stimulating interest in petroleum development and shipping. NISAR will provide key data necessary to make informed environmental and economic decisions. NISAR will provide the most complete measurements of rapidly changing sea ice motion and estimates of thickness of both polar regions. Understanding the causes and mechanisms of its loss requires knowledge of sea ice dynamics, ice thickness distribution, and sea ice types. Melting permafrost releases methane to the atmosphere, erodes soil, and impacts surface water distribution and stability of infrastructure. NISAR will measure heave and thaw in the near- surface active layer of permafrost. continued from front page Copyright 2016 California Institute of Technology. U.S. Government sponsorship acknowledged.