Passive microwave images of the polar regions, first produced after the launch of the Nimbus-5 Electrically Scanning Microwave Radiometer (ESMR)in December 1972, have become a valuable new source of polar information. Some of the potential applications of this new capability were anticipated. Of these, the sensing of sea ice through clouds and the polar night is probably the most important application for polar research and for operations on the polar seas. Other applications, such as the measurement of certain near-surfaceice sheet parameters, have been formulated more recently. Measurement of various ocean surface parameters is expected from the forthcoming multifrequency microwave observations. Undoubtedly additional uses of passive microwave datawill be conceived and developed. Two remarkable aspects of satellite-borne microwave radiometers are the complete spatial detail obtained by the scanning sensors and the temporal detail provided by continual coverage. For example, the observations of detailed microwave emission patterns over the Antarctic ice sheet should yield information that could not be obtained by surface or even aircraft measurements. Sequences of images produced at three-day intervalsreveal short-term ice sheet and sea ice phenomena that would otherwise be missed.
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