Arctic Polar Region Challenge Workshop, June 2013

The CEOI Workshop on ‘Challenges for Exploitation of the Arctic Polar Region’ was held on 25th June 2013 at the Satellite Applications Catapult in Harwell. The workshop considered the opportunities and challenges, together with the implications for future space missions of this important potential market area.

The full agenda is available here.

To view the presentations, click on the links below:

Observations from IceSat and more recently CryoSat II have shown that the annual minimum of Arctic sea ice cover is not only shrinking in extent year on year, but is also shrinking in thickness and volume. If warming trends continue as is likely, we may see ice-free summers in the Arctic within the next decade. This represents both environmental threats and commercial opportunities. The opportunities include:

• New northerly sea routes between Russia, Europe, Canada, the North Sea, the Atlantic, the Bering Strait and on to the Pacific;

• Opportunities for resource extraction including oil and gas reserves in the Arctic basin bordering the Arctic states.

• Opportunities for fisheries as species retreat to colder Arctic waters.

The threats include:

• Changing local and global weather patterns;

• Loss of habitat for wildlife;

• Threats to indigenous peoples;

• Safety of life issues;

• Pollution of the pristine polar environment.

This creates a need for new services to support both exploitation and monitoring of the environment. In principle space can provide services based upon Earth observation, GNSS navigation and telecommunications. However there are difficulties with all of these at very high latitudes:

• GNSS spacecraft have low orbital inclinations, and suffer from ionospheric interference;

• Most communications satellites are in geostationary orbit and do not service high latitudes well;

• Geostationary EO platforms see a very foreshortened view of the Arctic, and cannot see the highest latitudes at all;

• Most Earth observation platforms in low-Earth orbit are at inclinations which do not serve the polar regions well.

This workshop is jointly sponsored by CEOI and the Satellite Applications Catapult. We examined the challenges presented by representatives of the community involved in operational applications in the Arctic Ocean. The aim of the workshop is to see how these services can best be provided in support of operations in the high Arctic. Our speakers include:

• Prof Andy Shepherd (University of Leeds and CPOM) - Changes in the Arctic ice cover;

• Prof Malcolm Macdonald (Strathclyde University) - Orbits for polar EO, navigation and comms;

• Kim Partington (GeoCento) - Operational services in the Arctic;

• Prof Cathryn Mitchell (University of Bath) - Satellite navigation issues for the high Arctic.

• Dr Andrew Fleming (British Antarctic Survey) - Delivering an operational sea ice information service in the Arctic