“But whatever interest all these observations may possess, they do not possess that scientific value, even supported by a long column of figures, which under other circumstances might have been the case. They only furnish us with a picture of the extreme effects of the forces of nature in the Arctic regions, but leave us completely in the dark with respect to their causes” (C. Weyprecht 1882)


POLARIS – Polar Observations by Laser Altimetry, Radar Interferometry and Stereometry[1]


POLARIS is a collaborative research devoted to studying mid-term (annual to centennial) fluctuations in polar resources of ice and snow from remote sensing and ground data. This internationally coordinated initiative follows on the ESA IPY AO projects IDs. 4085, 4272 endorsed by ESA in 2007. POLARIS will be carried out in the period of IX.2007 - III.2009 thus essentially covering time frame of the 4th International Polar Year (IPY) 2007-09. This is the first time that a research effort on Earth Observation (EO) will be held at the ISSI premises in Bern.


Polar idea of the POLARIS project is to investigate climate- and gravity-driven fluctuations in snow & ice resources, to map and analyze glacier dynamics in the European Arctic Sector, and to study related impacts on the sea level change in the Arctic Basin using remote sensing methods of satellite altimetry, radar interferometry stereometry and gradiometry (http://eopi.esa.int/esa/esa ®  search ID.4085, ID.4127 and ID.4272).


Main objectives of the research are presently formulated as follows (20.09.2007)


1) to establish the research frameworks for studying fluctuations in snow and ice resources and their causes from remote sensing and ground data, in particular

- to build a strong research consortium,

- to formulate cooperative research concepts of European priority,

- to design an implementation structure (lead users!),

- to highlight and to promote the initiative,

2) to compile and to submit competitive research proposals to relevant scientific programmes, consortia and funding agencies,

3) to devise an optimal acquisition strategy for relevant spaceborne sensors, to make better use of observational archives, and to demonstrate the value and potential of EO missions with respect to cryosphere and global change.


The POLARIS consortium includes (preliminarily) the following team members:

  • Alfred Wegener Institute, Bremerhaven, Germany (contact person: Prof. H.Miller)
  • Danish Meteorological Institute & Climate Centre, Copenhagen (Dr. G.Agalgeirsdottir)
  • ESA ESTEC, the Netherlands (Dr. M.Drinkwater)
  • ETH Zürich, Switzerland (Mr. J.Deutscher),
  • GAMMA Remote Sensing, Gümlingen, Switzerland (Dr. T.Strozzi)
  • Helsinki University of Technology, Finland (Prof. H.Haggren)
  • Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research, Utrecht Uni, the Netherlands (Prof. H.Oerlemans)
  • Joanneum Research, Graz, Austria (Dr. A.Sharov)
  • Moscow State University of Geodesy and Cartography, Russia (Prof. V.Malinnikov)
  • Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge, UK (Prof. J.Dowdeswell, Mr. T.Benham)
  • TU Berlin, Germany (Prof. O.Hellwich)                                                              
  • University of Edinburgh, UK (Dr. A.Shepherd)
  • University of Iceland (Prof. H.Björnsson)
  • University of Oslo, Norway (Prof. A.Kääb)                                                                                                                          
  • University of Silesia, Sosnoviec, Poland (Prof. J.Jania)


The cumulative research expertise comprises polar remote sensing, geodesy, glaciology, meteorology / climatology and oceanography, glacier cartography, image processing and research management.


The POLARIS research is oriented so to provide an essential support with value-added remote sensing products /services to the GLACIODYN research project, which has been fully endorsed by the IPY Joint Committee  (http://www.phys.uu.nl/~wwwimau/research/ice_climate/iasc_wag/glaciodyn.html). 




POLARIS Group at the first meeting in Bern (ISSI, September 17-19, 2007)




Compiled by A.Sharov, Bern / Graz, 20.09 / 14.10.2007

[1] POLARIS – Polar Resources of Ice and Snow   / … Reference Information System