Today, unless you have Earth observation satellites, it just doesn’t cut it anymore. The spies above the skies are picking up ever smaller details. With the advent of satellite constellations, it will soon be possible to track changes to our planet in real time.
The perfect example. The natural event had already been looming months before. A deep crack in Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf was growing and growing. It was only a matter of time until the glacier calved. At some point between 10 and 12 July 2017, the crack widened just enough. An iceberg the size of the Canton of Bern drifted out slowly into the open sea. Even though Antarctica was in its polar night, researchers were soon in the picture since, in the space of just a few days, several satellites passed over the region. The first indication of the breakup came in the form of an infrared image provided by the US Aqua satellite. Shortly thereafter, radar images from the European Sentinel-1B satellite confirmed that the iceberg had broken up.