With Larsen C likely to calve one of the largest icebergs on record, having instruments that can track it no matter the condition is crucial to improving researchers’ understanding of the polar regions. While the rift on Larsen C is likely due to natural causes, the instability that climate change is fueling in the Antarctic make these types of observations essential to know what comes next.
Because it’s polar orbiting, the Sentinel-1 mission also provides information on what’s happening on the other end of the planet. Climate change is taking a toll on the Arctic that’s in some ways even more dramatic. Sea ice is disappearing at an alarming clip and Greenland’s massive ice sheet and other land ice is also melting.
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Monitoring changes now can help improve future predictions, but the satellites also provide important observations that can be used now in an otherwise data-sparse region.
“Their high resolution measurements are of significant value for numerous stakeholders beyond just scientists, e.g., shipping industry during the Arctic summer (and) navigation through sea ice,” Zack Labe, a Ph.D student studying the Arctic at the University of California, Irvine, said in an email. “I think this is a key point that we often forget. These remote sensing observations (like from the Sentinels) provide services to many industries on both land and water.”
Labe pointed to monitoring oil spills and creating forecasts for the Arctic as just two of the uses for the Sentinel-1 satellite data.
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The two satellites are managed by the European Space Agency as part of its Copernicus program, which is designed to create a comprehensive monitoring program for changes around the world. There are three other missions currently in orbit and three more will be launched in the coming years.
Together, they’ll be used to monitor a wide array of planetary vital signs at a time when the world is rapidly changing due to carbon pollution.
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