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Release of Declassified Artic Images

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Office of the Vice President

For Immediate Release
Monday, August 2, 1999
(202) 456-7035


Calls on Congress to Fully Fund the Administration's Climate Change Initiatives

Washington, D.C. -- Vice President Gore today announced the declassification and release of 59 satellite images of the Arctic Ocean that will be used by scientists to better understand the interaction between polar ice caps and global warming.

Release of the high-resolution images was approved by the National Imagery Mapping Agency at the request of the National Science Foundation (NSF). NSF is the primary U.S. sponsor of SHEBA, an international expedition to the Arctic that has documented changes in the ice pack consistent with those expected as a result of global warming.

"No place on Earth is more sensitive to global warming than the Arctic, and these satellite images provide scientists with valuable data for understanding how climate change affects this complex region," Vice President Gore said. "By making these satellite images available to the scientific community, we take another important step toward meeting the challenge of global warming."

The Vice President announced the release at the National Geographic Society, where he led a discussion on climate change with a group of youngsters attending the Better World Science Camp. He was joined by Bill Nye, the host of Disney's Bill Nye the Science Guy, who helped teach the campers about the study of ice cores.

In his remarks today, the Vice President also noted the recent drought and heat wave gripping much of the country.

"We had heat waves long before there was any threat of global warming," Vice President Gore said. "But global warming is real and we should act together now so that in the future our families will not have to suffer more extreme weather of all kinds."

SHEBA - formally known as the Surface Heat Budget of the Arctic Ocean Project - is jointly sponsored by the governments of the United States, Canada, and Japan. As part of the project, a Canadian icebreaker was deliberately trapped in Arctic ice for a full year in 1997 and 1998 so that more than 100 scientists could take measurements of the atmosphere, ocean, and ice. Over the course of the year, the ship drifted 1500 miles with the shifting ice.

Preliminary findings from SHEBA show that the Arctic ice sheet is roughly five percent smaller, and one meter thinner, than in the 1970s. Scientists believe that continued shrinkage of the ice pack could accelerate global warming because ice reflects more incoming solar radiation than the ocean does.

The newly released satellite images show the area around the trapped icebreaker over a period of several months. SHEBA scientists will use the images, in conjunction with data gathered on the ice, to develop a better understanding of changes in the ice's surface and reflectivity.

Declassification of the images, taken by U.S. intelligence satellites, was facilitated by MEDEA, a group of scientists that works closely with the intelligence community to examine and use national security data for scientific research. MEDEA was established in 1991 as an outgrowth of discussions initiated by then-Senator Gore.

"By working in partnership, our intelligence and scientific communities are advancing vital research that will help us understand, and meet, critical challenges like global warming," the Vice President said.

Vice President Gore also called on Congress to fully fund the President's Climate Change Technology Initiative and to drop legislative "riders" that would hamper the Administration's efforts to address global warming.

The Administration, which secured a record $1 billion this year for clean energy research and development, is proposing an increase to $1.37 billion in fiscal year 2000. So far, Congress has appropriated almost none of the proposed increase. In addition, several appropriations bills include language that could block ongoing initiatives, including voluntary programs with industry that reduce energy waste and greenhouse gas emissions.

"The evidence of global warming grows stronger every day, yet Congress is trying to strangle common-sense programs that save energy, save consumers money, and reduce global warming pollution," Vice President Gore said. "I urge Congress to work with us, not against us, to meet the challenge of climate change."


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