Sea ice monitoring

The interest in monitoring sea ice stems from its important role for mankind and nature. Even before polar expeditions were organized, the seasonal cycle and condition of Arctic sea ice was observed closely by locals since their survival greatly depended on this information. Monitoring sea ice is difficult since it is located in remote and hardly accessible polar regions. In the course of time, methods of sea ice monitoring have evolved greatly.

Sea ice monitoring from coastal stations and ships has been performed since over 100 years. Regular sea ice measurements with planes and satellites developed not until after WWII. Airborne measurements with planes were the most important method for sea ice monitoring until the 1980s. Since 1978, sea ice measurements from satellites are available that have quickly evolved into the most important observational method. Today, reliable spatially comprehensive information on sea ice can be obtained through remote sensing.

But even today, so-called field experiments are conducted for the purpose of sea ice monitoring and investigation. In order to obtain data from field experiments, primarily ice core drilling but also dive investigations are used. In order to measure longer time periods in one location while keeping track of the movement of the sea ice, drift stations are often used. Additionally, there are ice echosounding measurements operated from a submarine. Field experiments provide important controlling data for satellite measurements and are used e.g. to investigate physical processes.

Sea ice cover, sea ice thickness, the thickness of the overlying snow cover as well as sea ice drift are important variables in sea ice monitoring. These four key variables describe the current condition of the sea ice rather well.

Results of sea ice monitoring are processed using different algorithms. Associated data can be accessed through the DataPortal.

All further information on this topic is only available in German.