Invisible Dust

London | Sunday 17 February
Pollution level: Moderate

Earliest Satellite maps of Antarctic and Arctic


Satellite images of Arctic (L) and Antarctic (R) ice in 1964. Images courtesy of the BBC.

Scientists have assembled some of the earliest satellite footage of the North and South poles, giving us a clear image of what the ice caps used to look like from space. The images above were captured using Nasa’s Nimbus-1 spacecraft, a weather satellite, in 1964. The data retrieved from Nimbus-1.

Satellites were not regularly used for mapping purposes until 1978, but scientists are currently investigating data from Nimbus-2 and Nimbus-3, which orbited from 1966 to 1972. There is a continuous data set available from 1979 to 2012, but access to data from times past will give climate change researchers a clearer understanding of the changes going on in the ice caps. It will allow them to put recent records in sea-ice coverage into more comprehensive context, and collect more evidence as to whether the trends we currently see in Arctic or Antarctic ice are linear, or cyclical.

Earth observation is of great interest to Invisible Dust, as it plays a key role in two of our current projects: Dr. Hugh Mortimer, an Earth observation specialist at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, is collaborating with artist Elizabeth Price, 2012 Turner Prize winner, who will use his research to produce new artwork for 2013. He is also working with students from the Hounsdown school in Southampton and video artist Phil Coy on the Invisible Waves project, which aims to engage the children in climate change research by having them learn about satellite technology, then express their findings through art.




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