Super high-resolution spy satellites have been imaging sea ice at the poles for the last decade on behalf of earth scientists. Believe it or not, the images have been kept secret from the public and nearly all scientists. Over the last 10 years, a tiny group of scientists with security clearance was able to see some of the images, but couldn’t use them publicly.
Now, the United States Geological Service has published a set of high resolution images. The images have been released after the National Academy of Sciences or NAS recommended that the arctic images be made public to help scientists examine climate change and the impacts of diminishing sea ice.
The committee emphasized that these Arctic images show detailed melting and freezing processes and also provide information at scales, locations, and time periods that are important for studying effects of climate change on sea ice and habitat -- data that are not available elsewhere.
With the new info in hand, scientists should be able to build better models of smaller sea-ice features like melt ponds and ridges. Both are believed to have important roles in sea ice dynamics, but how important they are remains unclear.
The information released could be part of a larger trend in which the scientific and intelligence communities realize that they share a concern for environmental problems. The sea ice images can be found at the following website: http://gfl.usgs.gov/ArcticSeaIce.shtml