by Staff Writers
Paris (UPI) Jul 20, 2010
Scientists have a new satellite tool for studying changes in polar ice and the effect of those changes on the global climate, European space officials say.
The European Space Agency's CryoSat-2 orbiting satellite is providing data which should lead to a better understanding of how Earth's ice fields are behaving and what those measurements might mean, an ESA release said Tuesday.
Data from CryoSat-2, launched in April, allow scientists to determine tiny variations in the thickness of ice floating in polar oceans and of the large ice sheets that cover Antarctica and Greenland, the release said.
The data has been made available to around 150 researchers from 40 scientific institutions around the world.
"This is the first release of CryoSat data to users outside our project team, and notably early for a mission of this type," ESA's CryoSat-2 Mission Manager Tommaso Parrinello said.
Mission planners say they're pleased with the satellite's performance.
"We have been very excited by the level of detail we find in the data. We are seeing things beyond what we had expected," Project Manager Richard Francis said.
"I'm pleased that we can share this excitement with the scientists who now have access, and look forward to the added insight they will be able to bring."
earlier related report
Forecasters said they believe that the worst is over and that temperatures now will begin to inch upward, but officials said the cold snap -- which began in the middle of last week -- claimed a terrible toll across southern Latin America.
According to the meteorological service in Argentina, where 33 people have died over the past several days, polar air this week sent temperatures plummeting as low as minus 14 degrees Celsius (seven degrees Fahrenheit) in the center of the country, and around freezing in the usually balmy north.
Many of the victims in Argentina were homeless who died on the streets of the capital city Buenos Aires.
The southern cone of South America is now at the peake of its winter season.
But even normally tropical areas of Bolivia, where temperatures rarely dip below a balmy 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit), plummeted to near freezing, killing at least four people, while 12 people were reported to have died from in Paraguay, most from hypothermia.
Two of the dead in Paraguay succumbed Sunday after inhaling toxic fumes from coal-burning ovens.
Although there were no reported deaths in Chile, parts of the country reported unusually heavy snowfall, even in generally temperate areas.
Beyond the Ice Age