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Ice observations

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The hourly ice observations made from the ship’s bridge during the ISPOL voyage contribute to a large international program called the Antarctic Sea Ice Processes and Climate (ASPeCt) program*. One of the objectives of ASPeCt has been to compile sea ice observations collected from research vessels to Antarctica into a standardised database for use by the scientific community. The data have been contributed from numerous nations active in the Antarctic, including Australia, Germany, the UK, US and Russia, and date back to 1980.  The original data from these voyages were in many different formats (including some old analog charts), but in all cases we were able to extract ice concentration and thickness information, and in many other cases additional data on the floe size, topography and snow cover were also available.  Another outcome of the project was the development of a standard protocol for new observations and this has been followed for the observations aboard ISPOL. The data from ISPOL will be the 85th voyage added to the database, which now comprises over 22,000 individual observations and provides circumpolar sea ice data in all seasons.

The observations record the concentration, thickness, snow cover, floe size and topography of the pack ice along the ship’s path. The topography data is used in a simple model calculation of ridge topography to calculate the approximate contribution of ridged ice to the overall thickness.  An estimate of the characteristics of the three “dominant” ice types at the time of the observation provide information on the distribution of ice types and thickness within the pack, as well as the nature of open water areas.

The figures below show two distinct sea ice regimes along the transect from the ice edge to the ISPOL floe. These areas are separated by an area of lower ice concentration between approximately 40-45W.  The thicker multi-year ice was found to the west of 68S, 45W, which also had a significantly thicker snow cover.  At the time of each observation three photographs were also taken (looking to port, ahead and starboard) and this html document presents these images together with the hourly data for each day. The data provide a quantified, if approximate, account of ice conditions encountered along the ship’s track and may be useful across many disciplines. Of course, the observations were also continued after we left the ice station on 2nd January, until we reached the ice edge.

Volunteers from numerous scientific groups onboard ‘R/V Polarstern’ assisted with the observations, which are available to all ISPOL participants on the intranet and via the AWI web site after the voyage.  Additionally, the full ASPeCt data set is available to the scientific community by contacting Dr Anthony Worby at

Figures 1 and 2. Ice concentration and total ice thickness (excluding the open water fraction) along the transect from the ice edge to the ISPOL floe location.

*ASPeCt is a project within the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR). For further information, or a copy of the CD-ROM “Observing Antarctic Sea Ice”, contact: Dr Anthony Worby, Australian Antarctic Division, Channel Hwy, Kingston Tasmania 7050, Australia

for information about ice codes, etc. please read THIS

Nov 2004


Jan 2005

pages compiled by: Sascha Willmes, Uni Trier / AWI