In order to improve our understanding of the polar sea ice zones, sea ice and snow conditions are regularly recorded by doing visual observations from the ships bridge. With those observations we contribute to the longest and most consistent ship-based observation data base for the Antarctic, which covers already more than 30 years of ship observations. But also in the Arctic, these observations are done frequently since several years.
The procedure is very simple and can be done from every ship that reaches the sea ice zones in both hemispheres. Every hour, a scientist identifies the total sea-ice concentration, the three most dominant ice classes and their sea ice and snow characteristics, and inserts these data into a standardized protocol. These information are combined with a record of the meteorological state, i.e. temperature, wind conditions and weather.
We use the information for the evaluation of numerical models and satellite data which are subsequently applied for further climate relevant analysis, e.g. studying the ice mass balance and identifying the general state of the sea ice zone. In this context, they have even a strong interdisciplinary aspect, as they help to get an idea of the particular ice condition during an expedition under which e.g. biological or bio-geochemical processes took place.