Press release

New sea ice portal provides daily updated ice charts of the Arctic and Antarctic

[16. April 2013] 

Bremerhaven, 16 April 2013. During the 3rd REKLIM science workshop in Bad Honnef, scientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, today present the new German internet platform which they have developed together with colleagues from the University of Bremen. As a German-language web platform, the portal offers daily updated sea ice charts of the Arctic and Antarctic in addition to a wealth of background information on the subject of sea ice. It also provides users with the opportunity to download different base data for their own purposes. In the near future the initiators also wish to publish the world’s first charts on the sea ice thickness as data products of CryoSat-2, the ESA satellite, in this portal.

When seeking answers to the question of “how thick is the ice in the Arctic?”, interested laymen and scientists from German-speaking countries have frequently had to rely on English information from German or American research institutions in the past. But now the first, comprehensive German-speaking internet portal on the subject of sea ice in the Arctic and Antarctic goes online in the form of It was developed as part of the Helmholtz Climate Initiative - Regional Climate Change (REKLIM) as a joint project of the University of Bremen and the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research – one of the world’s leading centres in the area of sea ice research.

“Our website offers internet users three information sources: firstly an extensive chart archive in which anyone interested can currently download more than 7000 graphically prepared sea ice charts of the Arctic and Antarctic – current ones and from the past ten years. Secondly, a data portal in which the measurement data on sea ice is to be found. And thirdly, a large area in which we present sea ice information which has been prepared in an understandable manner by our climate office on the topic of sea ice. It provides answers to questions such as “How does sea ice develop?’, “How is it researched?’ or “What role does it play for our Earth’s climate?’“, explains REKLIM managing director Dr. Klaus Grosfeld.

The daily updated charts on the extent of sea ice are based on measurement data of the Japanese satellite SHIZUKU, which encircles the Earth at a height of 700 kilometres. Since 4 July 2012, its microwave radiometer AMSR2 has been recording where ice is located on the sea and how much. These satellite data are downloaded, analysed and prepared by the Institute for Environmental Physics of the University of Bremen (IUP). They are then incorporated directly into the digital infrastructure of the sea ice portal operated by the AWI computer centre where they are read out automatically as sea ice charts. “The cooperation with the AWI permits us to provide the data products developed at the University of Bremen to a broad public and to therefore bring together the expertise that exists in Bremen and Bremerhaven on this subject”, explains Dr. Georg Heygster, head of the sea ice department at the IUP Bremen.

In the near future the AWI experts wish to extend the portal to include current sea ice thickness charts. These will be based on data of CryoSat-2, the ESA satellite launched in 2010, and will show the current volume of the Arctic and Antarctic sea ice. “We are delighted that our sea ice portal will be the first internet portal in the world as far as we know from which these ice thickness charts may be freely and simply downloaded “, says AWI sea ice physician Dr. Stefan Hendricks who analyses the CryoSat-2 data.

The AWI climate researchers and their colleagues from the University of Bremen also wish to go one step further in truly up-to-date information and are planning to publish progress animations, scientific analyses of the current sea ice situation as well as reports on special research activities for a German-speaking readership on the new internet portal. From sea ice physicists through to the AWI modellers – they will all have their say at and illustrate the diversity of scientific sea ice exploration and outline the topics on which they can provide information.

In the next step, is also to be extended to seasonal predications on the extent of the sea ice for which the initiators wish to integrate the so-called “sea ice outlook” into the portal. This scientific tool links current observation data with model data to predict the development of sea ice extent. So far, these forecasts have only been made for the annual sea ice minimum in the Arctic but in future they are to be provided on a monthly basis. “In this way we wish to create a foundation for the more precise prediction of the future sea ice development in the Arctic and provide our findings to an extended group of users”, says Klaus Grosfeld. However, before the researchers can derive really reliable statements, special quality assurance precautions must be taken. is officially presented today at a science conference of the Helmholtz Climate Initiative – Regional Climate Change (REKLIM) in Bad Honnef, North-Rhine Westphalia. The REKLIM project encompasses eight Helmholtz research centres and just as many university partners. The climate research initiative is coordinated by the Alfred Wegener Institute. One of the objectives of the research network is to make scientific results available to the public. The new sea ice portal is an example of this work because scientists within this project examine amongst other things how the arctic sea ice cover influences weather and climate processes also in our latitudes. More information on REKLIM can be obtained at


Notes for Editors

We would be happy to provide HD-capable film material of Arctic sea ice and sea ice investigations by researchers of the Alfred Wegener Institute on request.

Further information on the satellite is available on the website of the German CryoSat project office:

Information on the work of the Climate Office for Polar Regions and Sea Level Rise may be obtained at the following link:

Your scientific contact persons at the Alfred Wegener Institute are Dr Klaus Grosfeld (phone +49 471 4831-1765, e-mail: Klaus.Grosfeld(at), Dr Renate Treffeisen (Climate Office for Polar Regions and Sea Level Rise), phone +49 471 4831-2145, e-mail: Renate.Treffeisen(at) as well as the sea ice physicists Dr Stefan Hendricks (phone +49 471 4831-1874, e-mail: Stefan.Hendricks(at) and Dr Marcel Nicolaus (phone +49 0471 4831-2905, e-mail: Marcel.Nicolaus(at)

Your contact person at the University of Bremen is Dr Georg Heygster, phone +49 421 218-62180 (e-mail: heygster(at)

Your contact person at the Communications Department is Sina Löschke, phone +49 471 4831-2008 (e-mail: medien(at)

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The Alfred Wegener Institute conducts research in the Arctic and Antarctic and in the high and mid-latitude oceans.  The Institute coordinates German polar research and provides important infrastructure such as the research ice breaker Polarstern and stations in the Arctic and Antarctic to the international scientific world. The Alfred Wegener Institute is one of the 18 research centres of the Helmholtz Association, the largest scientific organisation in Germany.


AWI Pressemeldungen als RSS abonieren

Das Institut

Das Alfred-Wegener-Institut forscht in den Polarregionen und Ozeanen der mittleren und hohen Breiten. Als eines von 19 Forschungszentren der Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft koordiniert es Deutschlands Polarforschung und stellt Schiffe wie den Forschungseisbrecher Polarstern und Stationen für die internationale Wissenschaft zur Verfügung.