19 December 2010
The Cryosat-2 spacecraft has produced its first major science result.
Radar data from the European satellite has been used to make a map of ocean circulation across the Arctic basin.
Cryosat's primary mission is to measure sea-ice thickness, which has been in sharp decline in recent decades.
But its ability also to map the shape of the sea surface will tell scientists if Arctic currents are changing as a result of winds being allowed to blow more easily on ice-free waters.
"Nobody really knows how the Arctic is going to behave as the ice retreats, but we do anticipate that significant changes will occur," said Dr Seymour Laxon, a Cryosat science team member from University College London, UK.
"This is just the first data, and it shows we now have the tool to monitor what is happening," he told BBC News.