Satellite observations of sea-ice thickness
AWI and ESA start operational service for improved satellite sea-ice thickness observations
Two current satellite missions from the European Space Agency (ESA) provide data to measure Arctic sea-ice thickness. The thickness of sea ice is a key parameter for many scientific and operational applications: But in contrast to the sea-ice coverage, measuring the thickness with satellites has always been challenging.
The ESA SMOS satellite can detect thickness of thin sea ice, whereas its companion CryoSat-2 is better for thicker types of sea ice. The combination of the two satellites enables precise observations of thin as well thicker sea ice in one dataset. Both satellites together provide an accurate and complete view on sea-ice thickness in the entire northern hemisphere. Before, sea-ice thickness maps from CryoSat-2 alone are only available for an entire month, now the new service provides weekly maps.
The automated service providing public and open access to datasets from individual satellites and the combined SMOS / CryoSat-2 sea-ice thickness product was implemented at the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI), Helmholtz Centre for Polar Marine Research, with the support of ESA. The service starts with the release of weekly sea-ice thickness observations from 2010 to April 2019. Updates of the dataset will resume in October 2019 after the summer pause for satellite sea-ice thickness observations. The automated and regular production of the dataset targets the needs of scientists investigating questions in climate research and users in operational data centers, such as weather and sea ice forecast centers, alike. The multi-mission sea-ice thickness product from AWI is therefore a success story of the conversion of science to operation.