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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
is Polar View? What are its objectives?
(Some of the questions and answers contained in this FAQ are based on a SciencePoles interview with Dr Charles Randell. To view the complete interview, please visit: www.sciencepoles.org)
A: Polar View is an earth observation (or satellite remote-sensing) programme, focused on both the Arctic and the Antarctic. Polar View is supported by the European Space Agency (ESA) and promotes the utilization of satellites for public good and supporting public policy. The Polar View Team consists of companies, government agencies and research institutes across Europe and Canada. Each organization brings diverse, complementary skills and experience to the Polar View program and is committed to establishing a dedicated service for addressing polar issues using earth observation technologies. The reason Canadians are able to participate on a European Space Agency programme is that Canada is an associate member of the ESA and financially supports a number of ESA programmes.
A: Polar View is a much larger programme with participation from 10 countries and with an initial contract for three years to 2008. Northern View was a 20 month programme really building the foundations for Polar View.
The goal of the original Northern View activity was to become a one-stop-shop for geospacial, or large area information about what is happening in the North; issues like snow melt and snow extent, ice issues, glacier issues, Northern infrastructure, and what's happening in terms of climate change. Because it was a much smaller entity than Polar View, the emphasis of Northern View was very much on operational services: using existing technology and getting the information out there to the world - to those who could use it.
With Northern View, we demonstrated to the European Space Agency that there was a very real need for geospacial monitoring in the North, and that the benefits outweighed the costs. The fact that we then moved from Northern View to Polar View proves that we were successful in doing this.
A: Polar View clients are primarily government or other public agencies. We also collaborate with the national ice centres in generating and providing information beyond their typical mandate of producing ice charts for navigation. Many of the ice centres would like to provide more detailed and specific ice information to particular communities and other specialty products. Polar View helps them with that.
We also provide information for certain private clients and commercial interests such as iceberg information to yacht races around the Antarctic, or to hunters and trappers who work in the North and who need to go to the edge of the ice for fishing and hunting. Polar View provides them daily updates of where the ice edge is and the current state of land fast versus moving ice. Also to water utilities which need information on glaciers and what is happening to them in a seasonal context in order to optimize power generation or reduce flood risk.
A: We are contracted by the European Space Agency to provide these services initially free of charge if that's what it takes to get users to appreciate the benefit of satellite-based monitoring services. But the ultimate goal is to become sustainable, so in the long run someone other than ESA will have to pay for it. Sustainability is foremost in our work.
We have quantified very well what it costs us to provide these services or information products, but ESA's approach was that if we are going to be doing this for public agencies, they don't have a lot of disposal income, so we need to give them time to get the budgets to pay for the information. We have allowed a maximum of three years for them to be able to do that. At anytime, if we do not see a realistic chance for sustainability of a service we need to seriously consider keeping it part of the Polar View portfolio. We have dropped some services because of this. We have also brought on new ones.
A: Polar View
services are offered in the Arctic and Antarctic as well as mid-latitude
areas with significant snow and ice across Europe, Russia, Canada, and
the North Atlantic.
A: The value of the contract with the European Space Agency is approximately €8 million for three years. The actual Polar View program of activity is at least 50% more than that.
A: We're not trying to replace national agencies or the science community. What we're doing is complementary to their activities and we work with them. There are organizations that have been providing services at a low level to some of the clients that we are also providing information to, and generally what we have done in these cases is to integrate them into the team. Polar View is exclusive in that the Team is at the top of their game and very expert in extracting information from satellite data. We demand no less than this. But it is an open membership. People can leave and people can join Polar View.
A: It is very much a team, but in terms of people involved, there are two different groups. There are the users, spread out among 40 different groups, and then there are the 30 Polar View sub-contractors themselves. Because it is so large, spanning ten countries, and because it is important to have regional representation, we've organized the network into four regional nodes: the North American node, the rather large Euro-Russia node, the Baltic Sea node, and the Antarctic node. Each node is like a miniature consortium in itself, but they remain very tightly networked with individual node managers and standardized platforms. They are each responsible for service provision and marketing within their regions. In addition to this, we have circumpolar and other international activitiers.
A: There are two primary ones we use called Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellites: ENVISAT and RADARSAT. We also use about another six satellites.
A: We certainly hope so. Polar View submitted a proposal to the IPY International Programme Office to provide geospacial information for IPY missions both in the Arctic and the Antarctic. Since then the national ice centres (collectively, the International Ice Charter Working Group) have approached us to become the common portal of IPY relevant ice information, and we are currently working on the details of how this cooperation will take shape.