Sea ice monitoring in Canada

I recently had occasion to learn a bit about how the Canadian Ice Service operates: tracking ice and oil slicks in the Pacific, Arctic, and Atlantic oceans. They rely on a couple of satellites – RADARSAT I and II – which are primarily synthetic aperture RADAR instruments (though they also passively observe microwave emissions from ice, which are useful for differentiating young ice from the harder multi-year sort). They also have three aircraft to cover gaps between satellite passes, as well as collect evidence of ships discharging oil, for later prosecutions. They are also the ones who put the beacon I mentioned earlier on the ice island that calved from the Petermann Glacier.

As the Arctic continues to lose old ice and summer ice, their role will only become more important. Sea traffic of all sorts is likely to increase, particularly if a trans-polar route opens up in summertime (not through either channel of the Northwest Passage, but straight across the pole) or if major oil and gas discoveries occur in the increasingly clear Arctic ocean.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

2 thoughts on “Sea ice monitoring in Canada”

  1. Canada Will Use Robot Subs to Map Arctic Sea Floor, Boost Territorial Claims

    Published: February 10, 2010

    Two robot submarines will plunge into the Arctic next month in an effort to help Canada stake a claim to a large swath of potentially mineral-rich seafloor in the polar region.

    Data gathered by the yellow torpedo-shaped probes will become part of Canada’s bid to prove its continental slope stretches far beyond the 200-nautical-mile territorial limit. The matter will be decided by a U.N. panel overseeing claims under the 28-year-old Convention on the Law of the Sea.

    Canada, the United States, Russia, Denmark and Norway are involved in a scrum over Arctic bottomland and long-frozen shipping lanes that have started to thaw as global temperatures rise. With scientists predicting that Arctic summers may be ice-free by the 2030s, the five nations have mounted studies they hope will help expand their territories.

    At stake is nearly a quarter of the world’s oil, gas and minerals, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The agency estimates that the Arctic accounts for 22 percent of the world’s undiscovered, technically recoverable resources, with about 84 percent of those riches offshore.

  2. RADARSAT satellite technology gets $500-million

    Shawn McCarthy

    Ottawa — Globe and Mail Update Published on Thursday, Mar. 04, 2010 4:20PM EST

    The federal government is spending nearly $500-million to develop the next generation of RADARSAT, a satellite technology that was nearly sold to U.S. interests two years ago.

    Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said the investment through the Canadian Space Agency was part of the government’s broader effort to improve Canada’s performance in research and innovation.

    Canada’s RADARSAT 1 and 2 satellites provide maritime surveillance, climate and weather assessment, and ecosystem management over the northern part of the northern hemisphere.

    The RADARSAT Constellation project aims to replace single satellites with a cluster of them that would provide greater geographical coverage and provide more information on climate and weather, ecosystems and forestry and agriculture.

    In his budget, Mr. Flaherty provided the Canadian Space Agency $397-million over five years of new money – plus $100-million from the agency’s existing budget – to work with the industry to develop the RADARSAT Constellation Mission.

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