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The pictures, kept secret by Washington during the presidency of George W Bush, were declassified by the White House last week. President Barack Obama is currently trying to galvanise Congress and the American public to take action to halt catastrophic climate change caused by rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
The Arctic images have a resolution of about 1 yard (1 meter), a vast improvement on previously available pictures of sea ice, said Thorsten Markus of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.
"These are one-meter-resolution images, which give you a big picture of the summertime Arctic," Markus said on Thursday. "This is the main reason why we are so thrilled about it. One meter resolution is the dimension that's missing."