A Pan-Arctic Airborne Sea Ice Observation System

Stefan.Hendricks [ at ] awi.de


We present an Arctic sea-ice observation system that focuses on unique direct observations of sea ice plus snow thickness. A network of research institutions, the Alfred Wegener Institute, York University and the Norwegian Polar Institute, maintain an observation system that is embedded in several national and international projects and supported by research partners. Activities in the field include the use of long-range polar research aircraft and helicopter operations from research icebreakers and bases on land. Data collections are based on electromagnetic induction sounding and consistent time series are available in key regions of the Arctic Ocean since 2001. The increased use of polar research aircrafts in recent years has resulted in several initiatives that aim for long-term observations of ice thickness during seasonal minimum and maximum sea-ice extent in the Arctic. The scientific payload of the research aircraft of type Basler BT-67 and its capability to fly low-altitude surveys makes it an ideal tool for the validation and on-going verification of various satellite remote sensing products. The availability of airborne sea-ice thickness information spans the periods of different satellite sea-ice thickness retrieval concepts, such as the radar altimeters from Envisat and CryoSat-2 as well as the laser altimeter from ICESat-1 and -2. Wherever possible, the airborne surveys are accompanied by in-situ observations on the ice surface to compile a hierarchy of validation data from local to basin scales. Results of the observation network have found broad use for studying inter-annual variability and changes of sea ice thickness as well as the validation of satellite data products. We identify a gap of observations over the multi-year sea ice zone during the melt season and early freeze-up. We also stress the need for the continuation of a coordinated observational program that has produced a time series of sea ice thickness only paralleled by submarine observations. We plan to augment the observation system by simultaneous measurements of snow depth and to investigate opportunities for technological advances, such as the utilization of unmanned aerial systems.

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Hendricks, S. , Haas, C. , Gerland, S. , Herber, A. , Krumpen, T. , Mahoney, A. , Eicken, H. and Gerdes, R. (2016): A Pan-Arctic Airborne Sea Ice Observation System , [Other]

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