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.
Mariangela D'Acunto | alfa
Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past
28.04.2017 | National Science Foundation
Citizen science campaign to aid disaster response
28.04.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
28.04.2017 | Event News
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering
28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences
28.04.2017 | Life Sciences