In 2013, www.seaiceportal.de was rolled out, offering the first comprehensive German-language information platform on Arctic and Antarctic sea ice. Before, interested non-experts who wanted to know e.g. the current size of the sea-ice cover in the Arctic had to rely on the English-language information provided by international – especially US – research institutes. Since going online, the SEA ICE PORTAL has provided reliable, research-based information, straight from the source and in German: daily updated ice maps based on satellite readings, regular news updates on the latest trends, expedition reports from researchers working directly on the ice, and detailed background articles – e.g. on sea-ice formation and measuring methods – , not to mention a data portal allowing users to directly access raw scientific data and work with it themselves.
Now accessed 25,000 to 30,000 times a month, the SEA ICE PORTAL has firmly established its status as an important source of public information. In 2015, it was distinguished in a nationwide innovation contest as an “Outstanding Site in the Land of Ideas”. The SEA ICE PORTAL was developed within the framework of the Helmholtz Climate Initiative “Regional Climate Change and Humans” (REKLIM) and as a joint project of the University of Bremen and the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) – one of the world’s leading sea-ice research centres.
The sea-ice cover in the polar regions is a unique habitat, has a pivotal role in regulating the Earth’s climate, and is highly sensitive to temperature changes. “The fact that the sea-ice cover in the Arctic has been in decline for decades is a direct result of climate change,” explains Dr Marcel Nicolaus, a sea-ice physicist at the AWI and one of the scientific minds behind the SEA ICE PORTAL. “There are indications that this troubling trend has now reached the Antarctic, too. On 31 December 2022, the area of sea-ice cover there was roughly 550,000 km2 below the lowest-ever value observed at the time of year – that’s a difference the size of France. And the sea-ice retreat in January is so intense that we might see a new record minimum Antarctic sea-ice cover in the second half of February. All this shows how important it is to keep the public informed on this globally relevant development, and to simultaneously show how these changes affect our own lives, with sources of easy-to-understand information like our SEA ICE PORTAL.”
What’s new at the SEA ICE PORTAL?
“Our relaunched knowledge platform is now more intuitive and interactive,” says Klaus Grosfeld, Managing Director of REKLIM and a climate researcher at the AWI. “We’ve given it a more modern and easy-going look and feel. Users now see the three most important sea-ice graphics on the landing page: the current sea-ice cover and trend curves for the annual development and mean monthly values. They can switch back and forth between the Arctic and Antarctic with just a click. Perhaps the most important change: on the landing page, visitors can select their preferred section: clicking on ‘Sea Ice for Beginners’ takes them to a collection of easy-to-understand articles that they can use to quickly and easily get informed. Here we explain what sea ice actually is, how it’s formed, why it’s important for the Earth system, and what life can be found there. Users who are already familiar with the topic can click on ‘Learn More’ instead for more detailed information. Here they’ll find extensive texts that go into more technical depth and cover sea-ice physics, sea-ice modelling, measuring methods, and the diverse range of life in and on the sea ice.”
The SEA ICE PORTAL pursues the same approach when it comes to observational data. Here visitors can choose from access to a range of raw data (satellite, echosounder, snow thickness and much more), or a new section for beginners, where, with just a few clicks, they can display sea-ice cover maps for specific days of the year and trend curves for specific months, or switch between the Arctic and Antarctic. In the “Interactive Graphics” section, they can now create and download their own, tailor-made sea-ice development graphics. Just as in the past, the infographics, figures and datasets are available to all users and can e.g. be integrated into classroom teaching. Also, from today, all contents – articles and new items alike – are available in both German and English.