This image provided by NASA shows Arctic sea ice at it maximum, the lowest on record. The winter maximum level of Arctic sea ice shrank to the smallest on record, thanks to extraordinarily warm temperatures, federal scientists said. (NASA/AP/The Canadian Press)

This image provided by NASA shows Arctic sea ice at it maximum, the lowest on record. The winter maximum level of Arctic sea ice shrank to the smallest on record, thanks to extraordinarily warm temperatures, federal scientists said. (NASA/AP/The Canadian Press)
Photo Credit: NASA/AP/The Canadian Press

National Snow and Ice Data Center loses ‘eye in the sky’

Share

Just as the Arctic experiences one of the most unusual weather patterns in history, a satellite malfunction has forced the U.S.-based National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) to suspend its daily sea ice extent updates until further notice.

One of key channels on a sensor on a military satellite, dubbed F-17, the NSIDC uses to monitor sea ice in the Arctic is providing “spurious data,” said director of the NSIDC Mark Serreze, speaking from Boulder, Colorado.

“We get a data feed from these satellites that we use to process to get our information on what is happening to the Arctic sea ice cover,” Serreze said. “So we are scrambling now to try and find a replacement.”

The problem is affecting NSIDC ability to monitor sea ice in the Arctic and can pose longer term headaches for climate scientists, Serreze said.

Looking for alternatives
NSIDC

NSIDC

“We really don’t have the information we want about what the Arctic sea ice is doing,” Serreze said. “There are other satellite sensors up there that we can make use of, but we lost this eye in the sky and there is a lot of other data products that we make at NSIDC that are also affected by this.”

Researchers at NSIDC are now running parallel data streams on two other Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) satellites, he said.

“When we get enough data, we’ll try and tie this all together, and continue our record,” Serreze said. “But it’s not a quick process, it has to be done very-very carefully, hopefully we’ll back online in a week or so.”

The problem with F-17 couldn’t come at a worse time.

“This year so far in the Arctic has proven to be extremely unusual,” Serreze said. “We had a record warmth in the Arctic this winter, an unusual melt of the Greenland ice sheet this spring, so it’s a pretty crazy year and, boy, we’d really like to be able to have a better idea what’s going on.”

Researchers at NSIDC also have access to a data stream from a Japanese satellite, but it uses a very different sensor.

“It’s not like you can suddenly start just replace that or kind of stick in there and say ‘now we’re going to continue our record,’” Serreze said. “It has a very different resolution it uses different channels, if we were going to use that to continue our long term record, there’d be quite a lot of work to do that.”

Longer term problem

The other problem the researchers face is that the U.S. military is running out of satellites in that F series.

“The F-19 satellite died, we were going to use that but it died,” Serreze said. “There is one more satellite called F-20, but it’s sitting in a clean room somewhere and we’re not sure if it will be launched.”

There is growing concern about what’s going to happen when this last suit of sensors end.

“The continuity of data is key,” Serreze said. “The tendency often is for NASA to bring the latest and greatest, the newest technology, but the reality is that if you want to look at climate and climate changes, it’s that long-term consistent record that you really want to have.”

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Canadian study looks at Arctic beetles as climate change markers, Radio Canada International

Finland:  Warm Easter predicted across Finland… even for Lapland, Yle News

Greenland:  Changing Sea Ice: The Ripple Effect (VIDEO), Eye on the Arctic

Norway: 2014 warmest year in history for Norway, Barents Observer

Sweden: Storm Helga weather warning for Sweden, Radio Sweden

United States: Arctic’s ‘startling’ winter warmth ‘milepost’ say scientists, Alaska Dispatch News

Share
Categories: Environment, Internet, Science and Technology
Tags: , , ,

Do you want to report an error or a typo? Click here!

@*@ Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available

Note: By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that Radio Canada International has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Radio Canada International does not endorse any of the views posted. Your comments will be pre-moderated and published if they meet netiquette guidelines.

Netiquette »

When you express your personal opinion in an online forum, you must be as courteous as if you were speaking with someone face-to-face. Insults and personal attacks will not be tolerated. To disagree with an opinion, an idea or an event is one thing, but to show disrespect for other people is quite another. Great minds don’t always think alike—and that’s precisely what makes online dialogue so interesting and valuable.

Netiquette is the set of rules of conduct governing how you should behave when communicating via the Internet. Before you post a message to a blog or forum, it’s important to read and understand these rules. Otherwise, you may be banned from posting.

  1. RCInet.ca’s online forums are not anonymous. Users must register, and give their full name and place of residence, which are displayed alongside each of their comments. RCInet.ca reserves the right not to publish comments if there is any doubt as to the identity of their author.
  2. Assuming the identity of another person with intent to mislead or cause harm is a serious infraction that may result in the offender being banned.
  3. RCInet.ca’s online forums are open to everyone, without regard to age, ethnic origin, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
  4. Comments that are defamatory, hateful, racist, xenophobic, sexist, or that disparage an ethnic origin, religious affiliation or age group will not be published.
  5. In online speak, writing in ALL CAPS is considered yelling, and may be interpreted as aggressive behaviour, which is unpleasant for the people reading. Any message containing one or more words in all caps (except for initialisms and acronyms) will be rejected, as will any message containing one or more words in bold, italic or underlined characters.
  6. Use of vulgar, obscene or objectionable language is prohibited. Forums are public places and your comments could offend some users. People who use inappropriate language will be banned.
  7. Mutual respect is essential among users. Insulting, threatening or harassing another user is prohibited. You can express your disagreement with an idea without attacking anyone.
  8. Exchanging arguments and opposing views is a key component of healthy debate, but it should not turn into a dialogue or private discussion between two users who address each other without regard for the other participants. Messages of this type will not be posted.
  9. Radio Canada International publishes contents in five languages. The language used in the forums has to be the same as the contents we publish. The usage of other languages, with the exception of some words, is forbidden. Messages that are off-topic will not be published.
  10. Making repetitive posts disrupts the flow of discussions and will not be tolerated.
  11. Adding images or any other type of file to comments is forbidden. Including hyperlinks to other websites is allowed, as long as they comply with netiquette. Radio Canada International  is in no way responsible for the content of such sites, however.
  12. Copying and pasting text written by someone else, even if you credit the author, is unacceptable if that text makes up the majority of your comment.
  13. Posting any type of advertising or call to action, in any form, to Radio Canada International  forums is prohibited.
  14. All comments and other types of content are moderated before publication. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to refuse any comment for publication.
  15. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to close a forum at any time, without notice.
  16. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to amend this code of conduct (netiquette) at any time, without notice.
  17. By participating in its online forums, you allow Radio Canada International to publish your comments on the web for an indefinite time. This also implies that these messages will be indexed by Internet search engines.
  18. Radio Canada International has no obligation to remove your messages from the web if one day you request it. We invite you to carefully consider your comments and the consequences of their posting.

*