CryoSat – A Decade of Polar Altimetry with Andrew Shepherd (University of Leeds, UK)

CryoSat-2 is ESA’s first satellite mission dedicated to measuring changes in the cryosphere and its measurements have transformed our capacity to study the polar regions. Thanks to CryoSat-2, we now have an altogether new appreciation of how Earth’s ice sheets, ice shelves, sea ice, glaciers, and polar oceans are evolving. As global temperatures have risen, so to have rates of snowfall, ice melting, and sea level rise, and each of these changes impacts upon the neighbouring land, marine, and atmospheric environments. CryoSat-2 measurements are now central to our awareness and understanding of Arctic and Antarctic environmental change; a case in point is the marine ice sheet instability that is underway in West Antarctica, widely understood to be among the greatest contemporary imbalances in the climate system, whose evolution has been charted in satellite altimeter data since its onset. In this presentation, Andrew Shepherd will introduce the CryoSat-2 mission concept, describe the technical advances that have improved our capability to monitor land ice, sea ice, and the polar oceans, and review a series of flagship studies that have allowed both long-standing and unanticipated scientific problems in cryospheric research to be solved.

Andy Shepherd is Professor of Earth Observation at the University of Leeds, Director of the NERC Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling, Principal Scientific Advisor to the European Space Agency CryoSat satellite mission, and co-leader of the ESA-NASA Ice Sheet Mass Balance Inter-comparison Exercise. He uses satellites to study the physical processes of Earth’s climate, and his main contributions to science have involved developing remote observations of the cryosphere, with particular emphasis on radar interferometry and radar altimetry. He has also led field campaigns in Europe, Africa, Greenland and Antarctica, to calibrate and validate satellite missions. Andrew was educated in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leicester, and prior to working at Leeds he has held academic posts at University College London, at the University of Cambridge, and at the University of Edinburgh. He has co-authored over journal 100 papers that are often reported in the media, and he regularly contributes to broadcast documentaries such as the BBC’s Blue Planet 2 and Climate Change: the Facts. Andrew was awarded a Philip Leverhulme Prize in 2008 and a Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award in 2014.


Seminar was recorded on February 4, 2021.