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.
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).
Arctic glaciers and ice caps have recently been receiving closer scientific attention since their dynamic environment and interesting natural scenery is proving highly sensitive to climatic changes and influential with respect to sea-level changes. Several recent publications including the 4th IPCC report demonstrate that melting of glaciers and ice caps, and not that of ice sheets, dominates the eustatic sea-level rise in the 21st century (e.g. Meier et al., 2007). Arctic tidewater glaciers (TWGs), i.e. those extending into the Arctic Basin, which presently undergoes the most rapid warming, represent a unique object for comprehensive environmental research at the "cutting edge" of several scientific disciplines such as climatology, glaciology, oceanography and geodesy.
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.
Sea ice monitoring and other metocean services are presently providing large-scale and regional scale ice charts and forecasts for the Arctic seas. GMES ice services, provided by MyOcean and PolarView, deliver satellite-based and model-based products that aim at general applications for a wide range of users. However, high latitude users such as offshore industry and Arctic shipping require more specific services in addition to present GMES services. For climate research and prediction, there is a set of essential climate variables (ECVs) where satellites can provide important data. In addition to ice area and ice drift, which are already monitored by existing GMES services, satellites can also provide data on many land and sea ice variables which are not presently provided by any GMES services. At present there is no iceberg detection and monitoring system available in the Russian Arctic, but the need for such system is increasing due to increased offshore and shipping activities as well as for climate research. New observing techniques using Russian and non-Russian satellite data can improve the monitoring of land and sea ice. MAIRES will therefore develop a set of new land and sea ice products to support climate research as well as offshore drilling and other Arctic operations. MAIRES will prepare for operational use of data from GMES satellites (Sentinel-1, -2 and -3), CryoSat, GOCE and TanDEM-X as well Russian satellites. Also other relevant satellites with sensors for land ice, sea ice and iceberg monitoring will be included as supplement.