If you had half an eye on the media over the weekend you will have spotted that the Wilkins has finally exploded. That’s not even a great exaggeration – in the space of two days it went from stubbornly resilient intact ice bridge to a mess of fragments. It really does look like someone needed to get rid of a lot of semtex quickly. Now all eyes will be on how quickly the remnants are swept away and what the story is for the very large portion of the Wilkins left behind. So unfortunately we are likely to see more headlines like this in the future.
The Wilkins Ice Shelf saga continues and instead of posting regular updates of nothing happening, anyone who wants to can now keep a watch themselves. So in the spirit of all that is new and current in communications, feel free to sign up to the Polar View twitter feed which currently consists only of images of the Wilkins Ice Shelf area.
UPDATE – Launch delayed 7 seconds from take-off – more news from ESA soon hopefully.
GOCE, the first of three ESA Earth Explorer missions in 2009, launches today. ESA have gone multimedia crazy and you can follow progress on the website here, on twitter here, on flickr here and on YouTube here. Let’s hope they put as much effort into checking the rocket.
Fingers crossed for a sucessful launch. L-3 is at 15:18 CET (14:18 GMT).
Some background info below (once you get past the excessive footage of Italians enjoying the sunshine, the second half is actually useful).
ESA have recently passed the next stage in selecting the next in the line of Earth Explorer missions. This process will choose the next satellite to continue the series which so far includes CryoSat-2, SMOS, GOCE, Swarm, ADM-Aeolus & EarthCARE.
The shortlist has now been reduced from six to three. The candidate missions are briefly outlined below. Follow the links for more information.
BIOMASS – aims to measure the distribution and temporal changes of forest biomass at a global scale. Note a secondary objective of this mission is measurement of ice thickness.
CoReH2O – aims to measure fresh water stored in snow on land surfaces and in snow accumulation on glaciers and ice sheets.
PREMIER – aims to quantify processes controlling global atmospheric composition in the mid- to upper-troposphere and lower stratosphere.
To give you some idea of the timescales involved in planning satellite missions, whichever mission is finally selected the launch is anticipated in 2016.
Again slightly off-topic, but I could justify its relevance if challenged. The latest release of Google Earth is now available and has two or more things of great interest.
Aside from those of you interested in looking at Mars imagery, we now have both historical imagery and the long awaited for Google Ocean.
Firstly, historical imagery. In essence every single historical imagery update since the start of Keyhole Earth/Google Earth is now available, and also satellite and aerial imagery going all the way back to 1940. This makes for some interesting viewing over the Antarctic. Some of the changes in Peninsula ice shelves extent are well done, others need a bit of work.
The good news is Google have been proactive in asking for any other historical imagery and air photography that we have available to add to this collection. So there may be some gaps currently, but hopefully this will improve.
Secondly is the eagerly anticipated Google Ocean. The updated bathymetry is visible below, but now you are able to dive below the surface although I admit the navigation takes a bit of getting used to to and is easier with a 3d mouse. A bit of time is needed to see what else is included in Google Ocean and how much use it might be to visualise various data. Ideally we can automate the addition of 3d objects, profiles etc. We’ll let you know.
As ever, Stefan Geens at Ogleearth has more informed comment here and here. The second article highlights some Antarctic material provided by NSF and Census of Marine Life.