The Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite-2, or ICESat-2, measures the height of a changing Earth, one laser pulse at a time, 10,000 laser pulses a second. Launched September 15, 2018, ICESat-2 carries a photon-counting laser altimeter that will allow scientists to measure the elevation of ice sheets, glaciers, sea ice and more - all in unprecedented detail.

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Disasters Applications

  • How can ICESat-2 contribute to mapping of potential fuel in forests that may lead to hazardous wildfires? ICESat-2 data can provide valuable information on the structure and distribution of the vegetation present (i.e., the amount of burnable material), which can be used to better model the intensity and spread of a wildfire, as well as information on topography, which influences wildfire behavior. (
  • ICESat-2 also could be used to monitor smoke aerosols. The NRL, for example, suggested using ICESat-2 data in a manner similar to what is currently done with CALIPSO data, to monitor pyrocumulonimbus (pyroCb) smoke in the upper troposphere/lower stratosphere (UTLS). ICESat-2 would help in distinguishing smoke aerosols from clouds, observing the vertical characteristics of pyroCb smoke plumes, confirming pyroCb occurrence, tracking smoke transport and UTLS lifetime, and calculating aerosol mass. (
  • In addition to the above applications, Ute Herzfeld provided an overview of the Early Adopter research she is leading on the potential of using ICESat-2 atmospheric data to assess hazardous conditions for traffic (both air and ground traffic) due to blowing snow. High winds create thick layers of blowing snow,which hinders the heavy traffic of heavily populated regions. Ute Herzfeld will examine the applicability of a blowing snow product derived from ICESat-2 in transportation hazard warning.(
  • ICESat-2 could be used to improve the accuracy of air quality prediction without providing information about atmospheric constituents or chemical composition (e.g., data on particulate matter PM2.5). ICESat-2 will provide vertical profiles of attenuated backscatter, which is related to aerosol loading and pollution content, and may be able to provide information on the planetary boundary layer height. ICESat-2 could also be used for improving the temporal and spatial coverage of aerosol data in Polar Regions. (
  • How can ICESat-2 contribute to identifying and tracking icebergs in shipping lanes? The ICESat-2 mission will use a 6-beam lidar to measure surface elevation across the globe. The micro-pulse, multi-beam Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS) will enable global, seasonal and high resolution observations and understanding of high latitude ice concentrations and behavior. The small footprints of ATLAS (~15m) combined with dense along-track spacing (~70 cm), precision elevation measurements (< 10cm over most surfaces) and geolocation knowledge (data located on earth’s surface to < 6.5m) will allow ICESat-2 data to be used as a primary data source for iceberg locations where in situ observations are lacking. ICESat-2 data will be most useful when crossing icebergs that are at least 15m across, as they will provide several consecutive elevation measurements to define the iceberg height and edges with sufficient precision. (
  • How can ICESat-2 potentially contribute to Sage Grouse conservation and sagebrush land management decisions? Researchers are investigating how LIDAR (remote sensing method to measure distances) measurements can be used to provide better estimates of actual sagebrush heights and densities, especially at scales derived from satellite-based laser altimetry. (