Declassified Ice Photos Document Climate Change

July 29, 2009

For years, high-resolution photos taken by US spy satellites documented the extent and quality of arctic sea ice which scientists consider a key indicator of climate change. But the scientists could not see the data. National security was the government's excuse. It was classified.

Then on July 15, 2009, the National Academy of Sciences issued a report saying the images should be declassified so that scientists could use them to study climate.
 
The very same day, the Obama administration released them. They were published on the US Geological Survey's Web site.
 
Partisans in the climate debate had a field day accusing the Bush administration of hiding the data to suppress climate science. But spy satellite data is normally kept fairly secret. Presumably, the government doesn't want the bad guys to know its satellites can read the numbers on their license plates as urban legend (uncontradicted by the government or anyone else) says they can.