Tackling new Arctic challenges from space

Nov 05, 2009

International scientists, researchers and decision makers met at the 'Space and the Arctic workshop' to identify the needs and challenges of working and living in the rapidly changing Arctic and to explore how space-based services can help to meet those needs.

The workshop, held from 20 to 21 October in Stockholm, Sweden, was organised by the Swedish National Space Board and the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute together with ESA, EUMETSAT and the EC.

The warmer climate, advances in technology and demand for natural resources are leading to increased human activity in the Arctic. This increase in activity, especially related to oil and gas production, changing fishery patterns and new shipping routes, provides new opportunities but also creates new risks to those working and living in the area and to the pristine and unique natural environment.

One of the highlights of the workshop was the 'Arctic Marine Transport and Space' presentation given by Dr Lawson Brigham of the University of Alaska Fairbanks that outlined the Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment (AMSA) report for 2009.

The AMSA report, prepared by the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME) Working Group on behalf of the Arctic Council, is designed to educate and inform people about the current state of Arctic marine use and future challenges. It focuses primarily on Arctic marine safety and marine environmental protection.

"New space assets are crucial for improving marine communications in many regions of the Arctic Ocean in order to improve search and rescue and environmental response activities," Brigham said. "One key AMSA recommendation is the need for a comprehensive Arctic marine traffic awareness system; only space assets in the long-term can provide the coverage necessary to achieve effective monitoring and tracking of Arctic ships."

"Improved space sensors measuring sea-ice thickness, mapping snow cover and tracking icebergs will be increasingly important to Arctic ship safety and route optimisation," he continued. "Continued satellite monitoring is also central to recording the retreat of sea ice and other changes to the cryosphere in a warming Arctic."

In order to build the infrastructure needed in the Arctic to meet these challenges, workshop participants investigated ways space infrastructure could facilitate communication, environmental monitoring, early warning systems and navigation and vessel tracking in the area.

The workshop was held under the auspices of the Swedish Presidency of the Council of the EU as part of a commitment to face the challenges of and increased human activity. It focused on these main themes: climate change & environment; transport safety and security; and sustainable exploitation.

The contributions from ongoing activities in European projects such as MyOcean, Polar View and Damocles, were presented to show how lessons learned in setting up operational services for the Baltic area could be applied in a new setting with similar information requirements for the Arctic.

After presenting their experiences in the region, participants provided suggestions as to how operational space-based services could monitor and help adapt to climate change and ecosystem management, maintain safe transportation and ensure sustainable development in the vulnerable Arctic.

At the end of the workshop, participants agreed a set of conclusions and recommendations as to how space technology could help Europe meet its objectives in the .

ESA's ice mission, CryoSat, is scheduled to launch in February next year. CryoSat will monitor precise changes in the thickness of polar ice sheets and floating sea ice. The observations made over its three-year lifetime will help explain the connection between the melting of the polar ice and the rise in sea levels and how this is contributing to climate change.

More information: The workshop conclusions are available at: esamultimedia.esa.int/docs/EarthObservation/Statement_final.pdf

Source: European Agency (news : web)

Explore further: Five anthropogenic factors that will radically alter northern forests in 50 years

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Warm winter also in the Arctic

Mar 29, 2007

Central Europe is not the only place where the past, warm winter has caused record temperatures. Unusually mild temperatures also prevented ice formation in the Arctic, specifically in the region around Spitsbergen. ...

The Arctic And Global Warming

Feb 28, 2006

A warmer Arctic Ocean may mean less food for the birds, fish, and baleen whales and be a significant detriment to that fragile and interconnected polar ecosystem, and that doesn't bode well for other ocean ecosystems in the ...

Arctic marine mammals on thin ice

Apr 23, 2008

The loss of sea ice due to climate change could spell disaster for polar bears and other Arctic marine mammals. The April Special Issue of Ecological Applications examines such potential effects, puts them in historical ...

Arctic global warming may be irreversible

Mar 14, 2006

Scientists, noting sea ice in the Arctic has failed to form for the second consecutive winter, fear global warming may be irreversible in polar areas.

Recommended for you

More, bigger wildfires burning western US, study shows

13 hours ago

Wildfires across the western United States have been getting bigger and more frequent over the last 30 years – a trend that could continue as climate change causes temperatures to rise and drought to become ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Nov 06, 2009
What rapidly changing Arctic? You mean the rapidly cooling Arctic that has recovered from the shifted warm currents after they went back towards their normal route?

More news stories

Six Nepalese dead, six missing in Everest avalanche

At least six Nepalese climbing guides have been killed and six others are missing after an avalanche struck Mount Everest early Friday in one of the deadliest accidents on the world's highest peak, officials ...

China says massive area of its soil polluted

A huge area of China's soil covering more than twice the size of Spain is estimated to be polluted, the government said Thursday, announcing findings of a survey previously kept secret.

There's something ancient in the icebox

Glaciers are commonly thought to work like a belt sander. As they move over the land they scrape off everything—vegetation, soil, and even the top layer of bedrock. So scientists were greatly surprised ...

Clean air: Fewer sources for self-cleaning

Up to now, HONO, also known as nitrous acid, was considered one of the most important sources of hydroxyl radicals (OH), which are regarded as the detergent of the atmosphere, allowing the air to clean itself. ...

Scientists tether lionfish to Cayman reefs

Research done by U.S. scientists in the Cayman Islands suggests that native predators can be trained to gobble up invasive lionfish that colonize regional reefs and voraciously prey on juvenile marine creatures.

Leeches help save woman's ear after pit bull mauling

(HealthDay)—A pit bull attack in July 2013 left a 19-year-old woman with her left ear ripped from her head, leaving an open wound. After preserving the ear, the surgical team started with a reconnection ...