The French space agency CNES and Spot Image are contributing to a number of research programmes now underway for International Polar Year (IPY), for which they have built up a significant archive of imagery of the polar regions from SPOT 5’s HRS instrument (High Resolution Stereoscopic). With global warming today a chief concern, these data are giving scientists around the globe an opportunity to gain a closer insight into the world’s changing ice cover.
Satellite imagery is a vital tool for tracking temperate and polar ice cover. In this respect, SPOT 5’s HRS instrument has the key ability to acquire stereopair imagery at a spatial resolution of 5 metres, covering an area of 120 km x 600 km.
CNES and Spot Image have launched the SPIRIT project (SPOT 5 stereoscopic survey of Polar Ice: Reference Images and Topographies) in partnership with French survey and mapping agency IGN, responsible for generating digital elevation model (DEM) products, and the LEGOS space geophysics and oceanography research laboratory, principal investigator. The chief aims of this project are to:
- Image 2.5 million sq.km. of the Arctic and Antarctic regions, covering glaciers, small ice caps and the coasts of Antarctica and Greenland.
- Allow scientists around the world working on themes in line with IPY to access the SPOT 5 HRS archive through a dedicated Web interface.
- Distribute DEM products free of charge to research laboratories approved by CNES, to give them a baseline topography that until now has been lacking for studies of polar ice, so they can map change in these regions.
An initial imaging campaign in the Northern Hemisphere has already covered 830,000 sq.km of Arctic regions. The ongoing Antarctic campaign has set out with the ambitious aim of covering 2 million sq.km of the ice sheet.