Climate change is one of the most prominent problems facing mankind in the 21st century and remote sensing through space based observation has come to play a more and more important role in the study of climate change since its inception (Cracknell and Varatsos, 2011; Navalgund and Singh, 2011.). Cracknell and Varatsos (2011) says there are two reasons as to why remote sensing plays a vital role in the study of climate change, namely the huge coverage the data provides in terms area which allows studies at a local, regional or global scale and also the temporal coverage of this data as there are now libraries of data covering several decades available.
The goal of of remote sensing within the realm of climate change is to provide a reliable scientific grounds for helping establish policies relating to both natural and anthropomorphic induced changes in the Earth's environment (Navalgund and Sing, 2011). Both the European Space Agency (ESA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) both have space based observation programs dedicated to climate change.
The ESA have the Living Planet Program (ESA, 2006; Navalgund and Singh, 2011), with GOCE (Gravity field and steady state Ocean Circulation Explorer) recently completing its mission there now 5 missions operating at the moment in SMOS (Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity), ADM-Aeolus(Atmospheric Dynamics Mission), CryoSat-2, SWARM and Earth CARE (Earth Clouds Aerosols and Radiation Explorer. Soon the Sentinel series of satellites will also be added to this group ( Malenovsky et al., 2012) with Sentinel-1 due to launch in 2014.
Similar to the Living Planet Program NASA have the Earth System Science Pathfinder Program (ESSP) (NASA, 2013; Navalgund and Singh, 2011). This includes the missions GRACE (Gravity Recovery amd Climate Experiment), CALIPSO (Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations), Cloudsat and Aquarius.
The data obtained from remote sensing provides the backbone for research in many diffent disciplines which are as follows (Navalgund and Singh, 2011):
• Radiation, clouds, water vapour, precipitation and atmospheric circulation.
• Ocean currents, productivity and interaction with the atmosphere.
• Greenhouse gases and troposphere chemistry.
• Land based ecosystems and hydrology.
• Snow, ice and glacier extent.
• Ozone gas and chemistry of the stratosphere.
• Climate effects of aerosols and volcanoes.
Since there is such a wide range of diverse areas that remote sensing contributes to climate change this essay will focus on the an evaluation of the monitoring of the cryosphere, mainly that of land based glaciers and ice-sheets as opposed to sea ice.
Glaciers are a key indicator of climate change due to their tendency to react to even minor changes in the local climate (Paul et al., 2013), this means the monitoring of glaciers is very important to the overall monitoring of climate change. Remote sensing is particularly suitable to the observation of...