National Physical Laboratory

Satellites search out South Pole snowfields

Scientists from around the world, coordinated by the UK's National Physical Laboratory (NPL), recently examined an Antarctic snowfield as part of the world's largest inter-comparison between satellite sensors.


The results will allow scientists to fully quantify differences between the measurements made by the satellite instruments in orbit. This will lead to improvements in their calibration and ensure that the data collected is all quality assured. This will ultimately result in more confidence in the data used for climate change, weather systems and monitoring disaster areas. Some of these measurements require the detection of changes of a few tenths of a percent per decade, yet current sensors exhibit biases between themselves of many percent, often more than 20 times this level.

Over 30 sensors from space agencies across the globe, including several from the UK, ranging in spatial resolution from a metre to several hundred metres, measured the reflectance of the sun by the Antarctic snow. All of the data will be cross-compared to each other supported by ground measurements of the site.

It is hoped that the UK can continue to take a lead in this niche but crucial role to underpin the calibration and validation of Earth Observation satellites.

For further information, please contact Nigel Fox

Find out more about NPL's work in Climate and Optical Radiation & Photonics research.

Last Updated: 16 Apr 2012
Created: 28 Oct 2010


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