Polar researchers have historically been innovative and adaptive users of satellite remote sensing data, and their experiences can suggest ways to enhance the use of remote sensing throughout the climate sciences. We performed a semistructured survey of the polar research community on the use of remote sensing at the beginning of the NASA Earth Observing System (EOS) era. For the most part, remote sensing plays a supporting but critical role in the research as described by the respondents. Data acquisition and analysis is mostly at the home institution, with field telemetry appearing in a small minority of responses. Most polar researchers have not had formal training in remote sensing, but they have adapted and trained themselves very thoroughly. Although a significant number of polar researchers are content with visual inspection of satellite images, a roughly equal number develop their own algorithms for derivation of geophysical products, and more have become adept at using high-level graphical programming languages to work with data. Given the self-sufficiency in remote sensing training that characterizes polar researchers, nontraditional satellite data users (e.g., life scientists) tend to view the "learning curve" as steep, as compared with physical scientists. Although up to a third of respondents report no significant obstacles in accessing satellite data, obstacles such as a) difficulty locating data centers for their needs, b) the cost of acquiring data, and c) insider or restricted access to data were each reported by about one-quarter of the respondents. The major ongoing challenges with remote sensing in polar research can be met with aspects of modern cyberinfrastructure involving data interoperability.
Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, Lajolla, California
Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado