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Clinton Releasing Antarctica Images
Associated Press, September 14, 1999

President Clinton, warning that global warming could bring cataclysmic consequences, announced the release Wednesday of classified satellite images of part of Antarctica to help scientists chart world climate changes. He said the two sets of images taken 10 years apart were “one small contribution” to the understanding of climate change studies. “The overwhelming consensus of world scientific opinion is that greenhouse gases from human activity are raising the Earth's temperature in a rapid and unsustainable way,” the president said in a speech at the International Antarctica Center. “The five warmest years since the 15th century have all been in the 1990s.” “Unless we change course,” Clinton said, “most scientists believe the seas will rise so high they will swallow whole islands and coastal areas. Storms like hurricanes and droughts both will intensify. Diseases like malaria will be borne by mosquitoes to higher and higher altitudes and across borders, threatening more lives, a phenomenon we already see today in Africa.”

The data include seven previously classified images taken by US spy satellites in the mid-1970s and 1980s of the so-called Dry Valleys environment. Satellite pictures traditionally are classified because they reveal US intelligence-gathering capabilities. The new images are intended to give scientists a baseline for environmental studies, including the monitoring of the Antarctic ozone hole and the West Antarctic ice sheet. “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,” a White House statement said. ...

The pristine areas of Antarctica are closely watched because scientists expect climate changes to be more significant in the polar regions. Moreover, the Antarctic ice sheet helps regulate the climate of the entire Earth, and preserves a climate history going back more than 400,000 years. The pictures released by Clinton, taken by military satellite, show a detailed view of the Dry Valleys region of the Transantarctic Mountains, a 1,900-foot-long range that splits the east and west regions of Antarctica. The region pictured is near the US McMurdo Station, an observatory for the international global positioning system. The newly released pictures are modified versions of fine-resolution images taken by spy satellites. ... Last month, Gore announced the declassification and release of 59 satelllite images of the Arctic to help scientists study the interaction between polar ice caps and global warming.