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Arctic scientists have a new tool for understanding the rapid melting of the polar icecap

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Photo: Alex Morales/Bloomberg

By Laura Millan Lombrana

Roberta Pirazzini set out an Arctic expedition to do something no one had ever tried before: fly a drone near the North Pole.

Sensors on the drone would assess sunlight reflected from the ice. This measurement, known as surface albedo, is key to understanding how much solar radiation is absorbed by the Earth and how much is reflected back into the atmosphere. It’s one of the scientific puzzles that can help predict how fast sea ice will melt.

But flying a drone over the planet’s northernmost reaches is no simple feat. Pirazzini and a colleague, Henna-Reetta Hannula, spent months learning to fly at the Finnish Meteorological Institute, where both are on staff as scientists. …



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