Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

ESA Satellites Focusing On The Arctic

Date:
December 13, 2008
Source:
European Space Agency
Summary:
The Arctic is undergoing rapid transformation due to climate change, pollution and human activity. ESA's ERS and Envisat satellites have been providing satellite data of the region for the last 17 years. These long term data sets in combination with ESA's future missions will be key in implementing the newly adopted European Commission policy called 'the European Union and the Arctic Region'.

Envisat ASAR mosaic from mid-August 2008 showing an almost ice-free Northwest Passage. The direct route through the Northwest Passage is highlighted in the picture by an orange line. The orange dotted line shows the indirect route, called the Amundsen Northwest Passage, which has been passable for almost a month.
Credit: ESA

The Arctic is undergoing rapid transformation due to climate change, pollution and human activity. ESA’s ERS and Envisat satellites have been providing satellite data of the region for the last 17 years. These long term data sets in combination with ESA’s future missions will be key in implementing the newly adopted European Commission policy called 'The European Union and the Arctic Region'.

The policy highlights new opportunities in the region such as the opening up of long-sought transportation routes due to receding ice. However, it focuses on the need to carry out these activities in a sustainable manner.

In situ research is difficult to carry out in Polar Regions because of the remoteness and harshness of the area. From their unique positions in space, Earth-observing satellites provide effective means of continuously monitoring these regions.

The Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar (ASAR) sensor aboard Envisat is especially suitable for monitoring the Arctic because it can acquire images through clouds and darkness – conditions often found there. ESA is devoting about half of its radar instrument resources to polar area acquisitions.

In 2007, ASAR data showed that the Arctic area covered by sea ice had shrunk to its lowest level since satellites began monitoring the area nearly 30 years ago. In 2008, ASAR data revealed that the Northern Sea Route, also known as the Northeast Passage, and the Northwest Passage were both open simultaneously for the first time since satellite measurements began.

Using another instrument aboard Envisat, the radar altimeter, scientists measured sea ice thickness over the Arctic from 2002 to 2008. Based on these data, they found that sea ice thickness in large parts of the Arctic had declined by as much as 19% in 2007 compared to the previous five winters.

The Arctic is experiencing an increase in shipping, primarily for oil and gas development and tourism, with further increases expected due to diminishing ice extent.

The ice loss leads to an increasing number of icebergs in the area. Safe and efficient navigation through these ice-infested waters requires accurate, up-to-date sea ice information. Iceberg detection services are currently being provided by national ice centres, mainly using European and Canadian radar sensors.

The Polar View initiative, established by European and Canadian organisations under the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) programme, cooperates with European Ice Services to improve ice monitoring and forecasting.

Ulf Gullne, a Polar View user responsible for ice-breaking services in Sweden, said: "It is vital for the safety of winter navigation to know where the ice is and where it is going to be. The use of satellite images has also reduced our ice-breakers' fuel consumption by half."

The EC policy calls for the continuity of monitoring in the area via the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) – a joint initiative between ESA and the EC to combine all available space- and ground-based information sources to develop an independent European environmental monitoring capacity from planetary to local scales.

ESA is working to ensure this with its upcoming Sentinel missions, which will make certain that polar observations from space will continue with SAR and radar altimetry.

Data collected over the Arctic since 1991 is part of an ESA Initiative on Climate Change that was being presented to ESA Member States at its Ministerial Conference this week. The proposal aims to ensure delivery of appropriate information on climate variables derived from satellites.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by European Space Agency. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

European Space Agency. "ESA Satellites Focusing On The Arctic." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 December 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081202115606.htm>.
European Space Agency. (2008, December 13). ESA Satellites Focusing On The Arctic. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081202115606.htm
European Space Agency. "ESA Satellites Focusing On The Arctic." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081202115606.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) He is leading a one man agricultural revolution in Mali - Oumar Diatabe uses traditional farming methods to get the most out of his land and is teaching others across the country how to do the same. Duration: 01:44 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Detroit's Money Woes Led To U.N.-Condemned Water Cutoffs

How Detroit's Money Woes Led To U.N.-Condemned Water Cutoffs

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) The United Nations says water is a human right, but should it be free? Detroit has cut off water to residents who can't pay, and the U.N. isn't happy. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-Fuel Impala

Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-Fuel Impala

3BL Media (Oct. 20, 2014) Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-fuel Impala Video provided by 3BL
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Rhino's Death In Kenya Means Just 6 Are Left

White Rhino's Death In Kenya Means Just 6 Are Left

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) Suni, a rare northern white rhino at Ol Pejeta Conservancy, died Friday. This, as many media have pointed out, leaves people fearing extinction. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins