Project description

Satellite Earth Observation (EO) data provides unique opportunities to studying Arctic climate processes and related changes in the cryosphere. There have never been more polar orbiting satellites in operation, providing EO data for environmental monitoring on global and regional scale. Use of EO data is necessary in several climate-related scientific disciplines, providing methods for environmental monitoring, support to marine operations, resource management and contribution to education. The demand for land and sea ice information in the Arctic region by many user groups is growing as a result of climate change and its impact on the environment and human activities.
Arctic sea ice, glaciers and ice caps are highly sensitive to climatic changes and represent some of the most important aspects of climate change. Several recent publications document that there is a reduction of the sea ice, glaciers and ice caps in the Arctic. The dynamic environment and high rates of natural changes, the remoteness from economically developed regions and harsh environment impeding both aerial surveying and extensive field work are the principal causes for applying satellite monitoring in such inhospitable regions. It should be stressed, however, that the use of modern developments in satellite remote sensing and mapping technologies for cryospheric monitoring in the extreme conditions of the High Arctic is still largely unexplored and methods to exploit new satellite data are under development in the research community. An increasing demand for natural resources and the presently observed reduction of Arctic sea and land ice cover are key mechanisms driving human activities in the Arctic. The expected growth in ship traffic, oil and gas exploration, fisheries and tourism in the coming years will increase the risk of accidents affecting the environment, health, safety and economy of this unique and vulnerable region. The EU has started developing the Arctic policy with the environmental protection and sustainable use of resources considered as issues of the highest priority (EU Communication, 2008).

Overall objective:
The overall objective of the MAIRES proposal is to develop methodologies for satellite monitoring of Arctic glaciers, sea ice and icebergs. The proposal will demonstrate the benefits of combining Earth Observation data from European and Russian satellites for operational mapping, interpretation and forecast of land and sea ice variations in the Eurasian Arctic with subsequent applications in the socioeconomic sector. The results of the proposal will contribute to improved understanding of changes in land and sea ice in response to climate change in the Arctic.

Specific objectives:
• to establish cooperation between ongoing GMES projects and Russian actors in the area of Arctic ice observation from space;
• to develop a method for precise overall modelling of glacier elevation changes by use of differential interferometry and altimetry data;
• to develop sea ice classification methods using new high-resolution SAR images with dual polarization, combined with use of Russian high-resolution optical images;
• to develop iceberg detection methods using a combination of high-resolution SAR and optical images;
• to document inter-annual and decadel changes in land and sea ice variables based on the EO-products developed in the project;
• to disseminate EO-based products for/of monitoring land and sea ice to users and stakeholders.

WP 1: User requirements
WP 2: Data acquisition
WP 3: Glacier changes in the Eurasian Arctic
WP 4: Sea ice processes in the Eurasian Arctic
WP 5. Iceberg detection and monitoring
WP 6. Integrated presentation of products from satellite data
WP 7. Dissemination and exploitation