Startled by its swiftness, the scientific community was enabled to make studies of the melting ice caps by our spy satellites this week.
In the vast expanse of ice that remains, melting pools which increase the rate of melt have been hard for scientists to study. The new release of photos has made their studies much easier.
In an unusually speedy move, a U.S. government agency released more than a thousand intelligence images of Arctic ice just a few hours after the National Academy of Sciences recommended the action to help scientists study the impact of climate change.
The Interior Department made the images public on Wednesday afternoon. The academy’s report urging the release of the pictures was issued at 11 a.m. EDT (1500 GMT) on Wednesday.
Some 700 images show swatches of sea ice from six sites around the Arctic Ocean, with an additional 500 images of 22 sites in the United States. The images can be seen online at gfl.usgs.gov/.
Changes in the Arctic affect global climate, since the Arctic region acts as an "air conditioner" for the planet.
The Arctic images have a resolution of about 1 yard (1 metre), a vast improvement on previously available pictures of sea ice, said Thorsten Markus of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
"These are one-meter-resolution images, which give you a big picture of the summertime Arctic," Markus said on Thursday. "This is the main reason why we are so thrilled about it. One meter resolution is the dimension that’s missing.
The images were derived from classified images made as part of the Medea program, which lets scientists request spy pictures from environmentally sensitive locations around the globe.
While our new administration makes steps toward turning the government back to uses that actually benefit the U.S., criticism about the smallness of those steeps mount. Last night Bill Moyers’ Journal presented arguments from representatives of environmental groups demonstrating for much more and faster reduction of pollution.
BILL MOYERS: Give me a simple summary of what you think is wrong with this bill.
ERICH PICA: There’s a number of things. But the big ones are, one, the bill doesn’t reduce global warming emissions in the United States fast enough. And the emission reduction targets are just inadequate. Particularly if we’re trying to be a global leader. Two, it strips away the EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
BILL MOYERS: The Environmental Protection Agency.
ERICH PICA: The Environmental Protection Agency. Which is a key tool that environmentalists have been using to shut down coal plants. Three, it gives away a tremendous amount of money. Hundreds of billions of dollars to the polluting industries that have, essentially, caused the problem of global warming. The Duke Energies, Shells, Conocos of the world. Gives a lot of a lot of free giveaways in the in terms of permits. Four, and this is kind of overwhelming the entire system, is that it relies on Wall Street to help solve the problem of global warming.
BILL MOYERS: By?
ERICH PICA: By allowing them to manage the trading system that’s created underneath this bill:
BILL MOYERS: A derivative, right?
ERICH PICA: Subprime mortgages. We feel there’s going to be subprime carbon in this market. Where they’re going to be trading these derivatives and these various securities that may have global warming emission reductions associated with them. May not. But it’s going to be so large. And Wall Street is going to work feverishly to erode any of the standards and protections that are put into this bill to prevent Wall Street from gaming the system. Then, a matter of time, it’s not going to matter what we put in this bill, ’cause Wall Street, as we’ve seen over the last 20 years, seems to always win. When it comes to deregulating the very agencies that are responsible for monitoring and enforcing the rules.
MARY SWEETERS: You know, it’s just it’s been an entrenched system. They’re there to, just further their profits. To continue business as usual. And they see this as potentially a threat. So they’ve turned this bill into something that’s a gain for them.
The threat to our economy that produced worldwide disaster has, of course, other causes than Wall Street’s profit taking. But the plan to make a real use for the institutions of government as an instrument working for, rather than against, public interests, will take a firm hand.
The rescue of the economy won’t happen if our new administration can’t keep Wall Street under supervision and control. The rescue of our environment will take those firm measures as well. Conversion of the Interior Department back into a protector of the environment is welcome.
The surprising, and immediate, use of spy satellites in the interests of preserving our world shows a good beginning.