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Arctic lasers

This NASA technology could help measure Arctic ice melt more precisely than ever before

This NASA technology could help measure Arctic ice melt more precisely than ever before

This segment originally aired Jan. 18, 2016, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.

NASA released new global surface temperature data in mid-January, confirming that last year was the hottest ever recorded — for the third year in a row. Sea ice was also at the lowest levels ever measured.

Precision data from NASA that capture exactly what’s happening on the Earth’s surface made that analysis possible. But the projects that are used to capture that data might be at risk: Some House Republicans and at least one Trump adviser want to defund NASA’s climate research arm.

In the meantime, NASA scientists are continuing to work on projects intended to reveal more about our planet. One such project is the ICESat-2 — a satellite that NASA says will measure melting sea ice in the Arctic more precisely than ever before.

“We don’t even know some of the things that we’ll see, because we’ve never been able to look at the ice sheets in this kind of detail before,” said Tom Neumann, an ice researcher at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

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