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Global Land Ice Velocity Extraction project (GoLIVE)

  Jan 02, 2017

Global Land Ice Velocity Extraction project (GoLIVE)

Scientists have a new tool to systematically track the evolution of glaciers and ice sheets as the climate warms. The US$1-million system, which is funded by NASA and uses data from the Landsat 8 satellite will do that.

The Global Land Ice Velocity Extraction project (GoLIVE) is the first to provide scientists with regular, semi-automated measurements of ice movement across the entire world. Landsat covers the planet every 16 days, and by comparing landmarks and subtle features in ice from one image to another, researchers are able to trace the flow of ice over weeks, seasons and years.

Scientists have been using satellite imagery and radar to track the movement and evolution of glaciers from space for decades, but until now, doing so has required painstaking analysis. Advances in satellite technology, computer algorithms and processing power are now enabling them to expand their reach.

The goal is to understand how quickly glaciers and ice sheets will melt — and consequently how fast oceans will rise — as temperatures increase. Similar efforts to build a record of ice flow are underway for Greenland and Antarctica; these use data from multiple satellites, including visual imagery from Landsat 8 and the European Sentinel 1 satellites.

Eyes in the sky

But some scientists think that radar will ultimately prevail because, unlike visible-light satellite imagery, it can track ice through clouds and at night. This is particularly important in places such as Greenland and Antarctica, where the bulk of the world’s ice is shrouded in complete darkness for much of the winter.