IGOS Cryosphere Theme


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Theme Report


The Cryosphere Observing System as a legacy of the International Polar Year 2007-2008

1.     The International Polar Year (IPY)


The International Polar Year 2007-2008 (IPY) provides a unique opportunity to develop polar observing systems and, by doing so, closes one of the most drastic gaps in global observations.  The initial phase of CryOS coincides with IPY.  The first achievements of CryOS are in the area of coordination of satellite observations of the cryosphere.  The Global Inter-agency IPY Polar Snapshot Year (GIIPSY) project was developed in concert with CryOS to improve the coordination of space observations in the polar regions during IPY.  Some of the requirements will be satisfied through routine operations, but some will call for non-routine tasking, processing, and data distribution.  GIIPSY will generate a number of unprecedented datasets contributing to studies of sea-level rise, ocean circulation and polar air-sea interactions, regional climate, polar precipitation and hydrology, permafrost and Arctic aquatic ecosystems, transportation, and hazards. 


To further support the IPY, WMO/ICSU formed the Space Task Group (STG) for IPY.  Its purpose is the coordination of polar satellite data acquisitions from major space agencies during the IPY.  Some CryOS team members have leading roles in the STG.


Additionally, an effort is underway to ensure that there is an IPY legacy.  CryOS (through CliC) leads a GEO Work Plan task (CL-06-05) that has IPY data legacy as its goal.  The key elements requiring attention are to stop the degradation of critical in-situ networks, ensure balanced in situ system capabilities, and address missing elements in the satellite component of CryOS such as solid precipitation, snow-water equivalent, and SAR interferometry of polar ice sheets.


2.     WMO Global Cryosphere Watch


The 15th WMO Congress approved the WCRP/CliC proposal to initiate the establishment of a Global Cryosphere Watch as an IPY legacy.  The proposal was based on CryOS recommendations.


3.     Contributions to Satellite Mission Planning


The IGOS Cryosphere Theme provides an in-depth assessment of the cryosphere observing system, including capabilities, requirements, and gaps in the satellite, airborne, and in situ observing components. This assessment resulted in improved coverage of cryospheric elements in the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) Implementation Plan and contributed to the GCOS-CEOS (Committee on Earth Observation Satellites) plan for satellite-based products.  Furthermore, CryOS has influenced the satellite mission planning process resulting in:


1.  Approval of three orbital cycles of coordinated, experimental inter-satellite (ERS-SAR and Envisat ASAR) SAR interferometry.  This will test the concept of inter-satellite SAR interferometry for the C-band SAR constellations of the future.

2.  Approval of the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) Sentinel-1A C-band SAR mission, with a nominal launch in 2011/12.

3.  Approval of the GMES Sentinel-3A SAR altimeter mission that will provide sea-ice thickness measurements.

4.  Approval of RADARSAT MiniMAMM (Modified Antarctic Mapping Mission) SAR mapping of Antarctica.

5.  Approval of CryoSat-2 with a re-launch in 2009.


CryOS has also had an impact on the development of the CoReH2O (snow hydrology) ESA Earth Explorer candidate mission.


4.     Contributions to the Research Project Planning


CryOS is making a contribution to the planning of ongoing SCAR scientific research projects including ISMASS (Ice Sheet MASS balance and sea-level), ASPeCT (Antarctic Sea Ice Processes and Climate), PPE (Permafrost and Periglacial Environments), and AGCS (Antarctica in the Global Climate System).