Both sets of images were taken by two different satellite instruments ASAR on the left and AMSR-E on the right. In the coloured AMSR-E images, ice cover, or the concentration of ice, is represented by the colour. Pink represents pack ice and the colour blue open water. Intermediate colours orange, yellow, and green indicate lower ice concentrations of 70%, 50% and 30%, respectively. In the ASAR images, ice cover is represented by the uniform grey area which extends radially-outwards from the North Pole, represented by the central black hole.
The set of images on the top were both acquired on 24 August 2005, while the bottom left ASAR image was acquired on 23 August 2006 and the AMSR-E on 24 August 2006. In 2005, the uniform grey area in the ASAR image and the pink colour in the AMSR-E image are both consistent all the way around the pole (black hole), indicating pack ice with 100% ice concentration.
However in 2006 there is a significant extent of leads fractures and openings in the sea-ice cover just below the pole in both the ASAR image, seen as splashes of dark grey and black, and the AMSR-E image (with British Isles shown for scale), seen by the high concentration of yellow, orange and green colours, signifying low ice concentrations.
In the last weeks, what was open water has begun to freeze, as the autumn air temperatures over the Arctic begin to fall. Although a considerable fraction of darker leads can still be seen in the area using ASAR, the AMSR-E sensor no longer shows openings.
ASAR is an active microwave instrument which sends periodic radar pulses toward the Earth and measures the signals return. AMSR-E is a passive microwave instrument which does not send radar pulses down but receives radiation naturally emitted from the Earth. Passive microwave data contain a certain a
Contact: Mariangela D'Acunto
European Space Agency