Climate-change-induced serious, significant changes in the Arctic, Antarctic and earth’s high mountain ranges have brought cold regions to the attention of scientists, the business sector and the public at large. Especially polar regions have turned out to be highly sensitive to even small changes in the climate and thus point the way to global climate processes and their interpretation.
The “Polar and Cold Regions” team addresses urgent questions about changes to the climate taking place in the cold regions of our earth system and how they affect the environment. In addition to studying the cryosphere parameters snow and ice, questions about the interaction of land surface parameters with the atmosphere are also at the focus of attention.
One of the team’s research priorities is investigating dynamic changes in glaciers and ice shelves resulting from global climate change, particularly on the Antarctic Peninsula. Toward that end, data from different radar satellites are processed and combined with data from other satellite and aerial remote sensing sensors. This yields the longest possible high-resolution time series of various glacier parameters, such as glacier extent, velocity, height and mass flow. Analysis of these time series produces sound evidence of how glaciers have evolved in past decades.
The extent and dynamics of global snow cover is another important component of the research being undertaken by the team. In many regions of the earth snow-covered areas contribute significantly to the water supply on which people, animals and plants depend. But short-term weather anomalies as well as long-term effects of climate change influence the availability of this valuable resource. For that reason, “Global SnowPack” has been developed, a snow-cover product based on analysed and processed daily satellite images from AVHRR, MODIS, and Sentinel-3 sensor data. Information like the duration of annual snow cover, deviations from multi-year averages, as well as other products are derived and analysed for each year. Some of the statistical products are also available to the public as a WMS from EOC Geoservice. More information about “Global SnowPack” can be obtained via the link on the right.
The team is also looking at how changes in the circulation dynamics affect various land surface parameters in polar regions. Changes in the atmosphere over the Antarctic are especially characterized by modifications to large-scale circulation dynamics. In addition to monitoring general circulation indices on a hemispheric scale, characteristic types of circulation in specific regions are more closely investigated statistically and related to land surface parameters like temperature or sea ice. This makes it possible to study and understand in more detail the dynamic change processes in the atmosphere, which are partially stimulated by ozone dynamics in the stratosphere, as to how they influence the cryosphere and the ocean.