Earth observation satellites contribute to international polar year 2007-2008

Thousands of scientists from 60 countries will be conducting research during International Polar Year 2007-2008 and will, for the first time during an International Polar Year, be armed with satellite measurements offering complete coverage of the polar regions, which play a vital role in the Earth's climate and ecosystems.

Having access to near-continuous satellite data of these regions over long periods of time is important for scientists to identify and analyse long-term climatic trends and changes. ESA will provide current and historical data, dating back 15 years, from its ERS-1, ERS-2 and Envisat satellites as well as data collected from a number of non-ESA satellites.

Dr. David Carlson, Director of the International Programme Office for the Polar Year, predicts many uses of satellite data: "Many researchers use satellite data as part of their daily activities. During IPY those researchers will push to extract more and more information from the satellites, particularly to understand recent and current distributions of snow and ice. We will use every form of satellite data - passive visual, active microwave, and even sensitive gravity measurements - to understand changes in the global ice sheets."

Since their advent satellites have contributed to a greater understanding of polar regions, helped identify the strong links these regions have with Earth's terrestrial, ocean and atmospheric processes and made startling observations. For example, within days of its launch in 2002, ESA's environmental satellite Envisat captured the disintegration of the Larsen-B ice shelf in Antarctica, surprising scientists because of the rapid rate at which the shelf broke apart.

International Polar Year (IPY) 2007-2008 aims to enhance international collaboration in polar region research and monitoring, link researchers across different fields to address questions and issues lying beyond the scope of individual disciplines, ens

Contact: Mariangela D'Acunto
European Space Agency

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