New Satellite Data Lets Scientists Measure Arctic Sea-Ice Thickness All Year Round

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Researchers have developed a new method to measure Arctic ice thickness and volume throughout the whole year by using satellite data.

The international team consists of scientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI), headquartered in the city of Bremerhaven, located at the seaport of the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen, Germany.

They can now measure sea-ice thickness and identify climate changes in the Arctic through satellite images even over the summer period between 2011 and 2021, which was previously possible only from October to March.

Image shows Alfred Wegener Institute’s Polar 6 research aircraft flying over the Arctic Ocean during the IceBird ice thickness survey, undated footage.
(Alfred Wegener Institut, Esther Horvath/Newsflash)

First author of the study Jack Landy from the Department of Physics and Technology at the Arctic University of Norway (UiT) said in the statement obtained by Newsflash: “In the summer months the satellites are dazzled by ponds of snow and ice meltwater that pool on the sea ice surface.

“Then they have been unable to distinguish between melting ice and water.”

Landy pointed out that reliable information on the sea-ice thickness is important for making weather and climate forecasts, as well as for reducing risks related to projects and shipping in the area.

Now, the new technique aided by AI numerical simulations enabled the researchers to collect accurate data for the entire year, which they measured by comparing it to real-life observations.

The researchers stated that the majority of the analysed data came from the IceBird campaigns conducted by the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research.

AWI climate researcher and co-author of the study Dr Thomas Krumpen said: “We use the AWI’s polar research aircraft to gather information on the composition and characteristics of the Arctic ice, and how they change over time.

Image shows the view of the area where the MOSAiC ice floe was located, undated footage.
(Alfred Wegener Institut, Esther Horvath/Newsflash)

“The aerial data is highly precise and covers large expanses. That makes it particularly well suited for validation purposes.”

Krumpen claimed that his team can now make more accurate statements concerning the summer ice extent and volume much sooner than before.

He said: “Now that we have year-round, Arctic-wide data, we’re gaining wholly new insights into interactions between the atmosphere and ocean.”

Landy added: “Using the new satellite data, we are finally able to make sea ice forecasts informed by the ice thickness, not only for the winter, but also for the summer.

“This will reduce safety risks for ships and fishing.

“We can also predict whether there will be ice or not at a given location in September, by measuring the ice thickness in May.”

Study co-author Professor Michel Tsamados from University College London, stated that the new information could not only improve short-term weather forecasts for the middle latitudes, but also long-term climate projections.

The study was published in the British weekly scientific journal Nature on 14th September 2022.

Image shows the view of the area where the MOSAiC ice floe was located, undated footage.
(Alfred Wegener Institut, Esther Horvath/Newsflash)

To find out more about the author, editor or agency that supplied this story – please click below.
Story By: Georgina JadikovskaSub-Editor: Joseph Golder, Agency:  Newsflash

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