Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


ESA satellites focusing on the Arctic

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.

Mariangela D'Acunto | alfa
Further information:

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Oasis of life in the ice-covered central Arctic
24.10.2016 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

nachricht Receding glaciers in Bolivia leave communities at risk
20.10.2016 | European Geosciences Union

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Oasis of life in the ice-covered central Arctic

24.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

‘Farming’ bacteria to boost growth in the oceans

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

24.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>