Tuesday, May 31, 2022

How Ants Inspired a New Way to Measure Snow With Space Lasers

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Ants, as a group, are creatures of habit. While an individual’s path isn’t certain, biologists who have spent a lot of time watching the behavior of entire colonies can predict the average time any one ant might wander around underground before resurfacing. That got NASA physicist Yongxiang Hu wondering if the same predictability might be true of photons—particles of light—traveling through the snowpack. If so, that would let scientists use a laser pulsed from an orbiting satellite to estimate snow depth—potentially a powerful new way to monitor water supplies and the health of sea ice in the Arctic. 

NASA’s ICESat-2 satellite is

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