Fifty years ago today, the first satellite in the NOAA Environmental Science Services Administration (ESSA) series of satellites, ESSA-1, acquired its first image. The image was of Antarctica. Now, NSIDC’s Garrett Campbell and David Gallaher are attempting to organize the rescue of data from the satellite. They hope to use the recovered imagery to locate the position of the southern hemisphere’s sea ice edge, as was possible after rescuing infrared imagery from the early NASA NIMBUS series.
It won’t be easy to rescue the ESSA-1 data. According to the book Satellite Remote Sensing of the Polar Regions: Application, Limitations, and Data Availability, limitations of the imagery include “coarse ground resolution obscured by cloud and fog. Inoperative in darkness. Often difficult to distinguish ice from cloud. Imagery from the early meteorological satellites was not coupled to detailed ground observations. A major problem in using APT imagery from the ESSA satellites involves gridding and location of the individual frames.” (R. Massom 1991, p. 158).
Campbell believes they have an approach to solving the image navigation problem that will prove successful. With luck, our users will have access to imagery that locates the Southern Hemisphere ice edge more than a decade prior to the start of the Sea Ice Index record. In addition, there will be images showing Arctic ice as well.