describes examples of some of the polar-specific activities funded by NASA, including POLar Exchange at the Sea Surface (POLES); RADARSAT Geophysical Processing System (RGPS) and the RADARSAT Antarctic Mapping Project; Snow and Hydrology Group; Program for Arctic Regional Climate Assessment (PARCA); and Polar Pathfinder products. These products, together with the detailed listings of data sets held at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) and the Alaska Synthetic Aperture Radar Facility (ASF), represent the data sets generally thought of as the “polar” data sets.
NASA's polar-relevant data holdings, however, are considerably larger than this list suggests. It is notable that in the survey discussed later, respondents frequently asked for atmospheric and cloud-radiation data sets, although most of the respondents study sea ice, snow, and ice sheets. Since such data sets exist elsewhere in NASA, this suggests the need for the polar parts of the data system to provide links and directions to all the polar-relevant data sets held by NASA, along with guidance about quality and usage (preferably by reference to the literature). A similar situation exists regarding international data sets and data sets held by other U.S. agencies, many of which NASA also archives.
A component of NASA's Earth Observing System (EOS), POLES is an interdisciplinary project investigating the exchange of mass and energy at the polar air-ice-ocean interface. POLES is located at the Polar Science Center, Applied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington. Scientists from eight disciplines and four institutions have joined together to use the rich array of satellite data collected from polar regions. The data have been collected using a variety of satellite-based sensors, including passive microwave radiometers, the TIROS-N Operational Vertical Sounder (TOVS), Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR), and synthetic aperture radar (SAR).
Historically, satellite data have been used for short-term weather forecasts. POLES scientists, however, are using the data to build an understanding of long-term patterns in the fluxes of heat, moisture, and momentum across the surface of the polar oceans. Their goal is to assimilate satellite (and some buoy) observations into polar ocean-atmosphere models that not only refine the treatment of surface exchange processes but also quantify the roles of horizontal transports, oceanic mixing, and deep convection. With better data use, researchers can move beyond