CryoSat2 - An Icy Mission

CryoSat-2 is a satellite mission of the European Space Agency ESA and a part of the its “Living Planet“ program, which monitors environmental changes. CryoSat-2 detects changes of ice masses, such as the polar ice caps in Antarctica and Greenland, as well as inland glaciers and sea ice. The changes are especially visible at the ice cover of the Arctic Ocean. One main goal of the CryoSat-2 mission is therefore the estimation of Arctic sea-ice thickness. This parameter can be derived from radar altimeter measurements of freeboard, the elevation of the sea-ice surface above the water. Arctic sea-ice thickness data allows scientist more accurate predictions of the ice cover in the Arctic then existing observations of ice extent alone.

The Alfred Wegener Institute collaborates with ESA and partner organizations on a project to estimate the accuracy of CryoSat-2 sea-ice thickness retrievals in the Arctic. This work has now resulted in Arctic sea-ice freeboard and thickness maps calculated at the Alfred Wegener Institute. (German CryoSat Project Office).

The dataset has to be seen as a preview of the expected final data quality and not as an operational data service (Disclaimer). All important aspects of the AWI CryoSat-2 Sea-Ice Thickness Data Product are summarized in this document. Arctic sea-ice data is available as monthly means starting from January 2011. You are able to download the data here.

AWI CryoSat-2 Sea-Thickness Data Product


This service does not intent to be an operational data service. Updates on monthly ice thickness fields will happen irregularly and revisions of the entire data time series might occur at any time. We stress the fact that the interpretation of CryoSat-2 radar signals over sea ice and the uncertainties of freeboard retrieval and conversion into sea ice thickness are still an active field of research. This product shall therefore be a tool for the scientific community to enable further development of sea ice thickness retrieval algorithms and not be used in the sense of a fully calibrated and validated data product. It is our aim however, to implement progress in algorithm development in new revisions and provide robust uncertainty estimations for CryoSat-2 freeboard and sea ice thickness.

We encourage users to give feedback ( for further improvements of the AWI CryoSat-2 level-2 sea ice processor.

AWI CryoSat-2 Sea Ice Thickness Data Product

Documentation of CryoSat-2 Sea Ice Thickness Data Product.


You are able to download data and maps here.

This work was funded by the German Ministry of Economics and Technology (Grant 50EE1008)