Laser Eyes Spy a Big Melt in the Arctic

Airborne altimeters yield a disturbing picture of polar ice loss

4 min read
Laser Eyes Spy a Big Melt in the Arctic
Photo: The Asahi Shinbun/Getty Images

02laser

Photo: The Asahi Shinbun/Getty Images
GREENLAND BLUES: Sensors are spying signs of climate troubles, such as this glacial lake in Greenland.


Scientists from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration didn’t pull any punches when they released the latest Arctic Report Card in early December. In 2012, levels of snow cover and sea ice were both at record lows, while surface melting of the massive Greenland ice sheet increased, despite temperatures in the region that were “unremarkable relative to the last decade.” In short, the Arctic seems to be deteriorating faster than scientists thought it would.


Keep Reading ↓Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

Practical Power Beaming Gets Real

A century later, Nikola Tesla’s dream comes true

8 min read
This nighttime outdoor image, with city lights in the background, shows a narrow beam of light shining on a circular receiver that is positioned on the top of a pole.

A power-beaming system developed by PowerLight Technologies conveyed hundreds of watts of power during a 2019 demonstration at the Port of Seattle.

PowerLight Technologies
Yellow

Wires have a lot going for them when it comes to moving electric power around, but they have their drawbacks too. Who, after all, hasn’t tired of having to plug in and unplug their phone and other rechargeable gizmos? It’s a nuisance.

Wires also challenge electric utilities: These companies must take pains to boost the voltage they apply to their transmission cables to very high values to avoid dissipating most of the power along the way. And when it comes to powering public transportation, including electric trains and trams, wires need to be used in tandem with rolling or sliding contacts, which are troublesome to maintain, can spark, and in some settings will generate problematic contaminants.

Keep Reading ↓Show less