THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
(Christchurch, New Zealand)
For Immediate Release September 15, 1999
PROTECTING ANTARCTICA AND THE GLOBAL ENVIRONMENT
Today, in a visit to the International Antarctic Center in Christchurch, President Clinton announced the declassification and release of satellite images of Antarctica that will help scientists understand one of the world's most unique ecosystems. The images are the latest released through an Administration initiative that makes previously classified data available to the scientific community. In addition, the President announced that New Zealand is joining a U.S.-led program that promotes science and environmental education around the world.
Working Together to Protect the Environment. The United States and New Zealand work closely, and in cooperation with other nations, on a wide range of environmental issues, including climate change, biodiversity, and ocean protection. One of the major successes is the international effort to protect Antarctica. Under the Antarctic Treaty of 1959, spearheaded by the United States, this remote continent is reserved exclusively for peaceful purposes. The International Antarctic Center, supported by the National Science Foundation, is the headquarters of the U.S. and New Zealand Antarctic research programs and the staging ground for much of the scientific research taking place in Antarctica. Major research priorities include monitoring the Antarctic ozone hole and the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.
Declassifying Data to Advance Science. Under an initiative launched in 1991 at the urging of then-Senator Al Gore, U.S. intelligence agencies are working with the scientific community in the MEDEA program to assess and, in some cases, declassify data so it can be used in scientific research. Last month, Vice President Gore announced the declassification and release of 59 satellite images of the Arctic that will help scientists better understand the interaction between polar ice caps and global warming. Today, the President announced that the National Imagery and Mapping Agency is releasing 7 previously classified images of the Dry Valleys region of Antarctica. The National Science Foundation, the DCI Environmental Center at the CIA, and MEDEA all played an important role in making these data available. These digital images provide detailed "snapshots" of about 7500 square miles of this rare "cold polar-desert" environment, where precipitation, if it were melted, averages less than 5 centimeters of water per year. They are modified versions of fine-resolution images taken by U.S. spy satellites in the mid-1970's and early 1980s. Together with data gathered on the ground, the newly released images will help scientists better understand ecological dynamics in this extreme environment and their response to climate change.
Expanding a Vital Education Partnership. The President also announced that New Zealand has become the 85th country to join GLOBE, a hands-on science and education program that unites students, teachers, and scientists around the world in researching the dynamics of the Earth's environment. Participating students in primary and secondary schools take environmental measurements, analyze their data and report them through the Internet to the GLOBE data archive, and collaborate with scientists and other students around the world. In New Zealand, the program will be led by the Ministry of Education in collaboration with several academic and research organizations.
One of the newly released images of the Antarctic Dry Valleys region can viewed on the Web at [http://www.nsf.gov/].