First validated data from ESA GlobIce Project

14 March 2012

Sample quicklook of Average Monthly Sea Ice Drift Velocity product. Average Velocity products are available for 3-day and Monthly periods at grid resolutions of 5km and 50km.

GlobIce, a €1 million project led by MSSL, started in 2005 and is a part of ESA's Data User Element (DUE) of the Earth Observation Envelope Programme. The main purpose of GlobIce is to define, implement and validate a sea ice information system to support the World Climate Research Programme Climate and Cryosphere project (CliC) with validated sea ice motion, deformation and flux products derived from SAR data in the ESA archive. The GlobICE project has been developed by a consortium of 8 partners and is due to complete in December 2011.

The Globice project is based on the heritage provided by the RADARSAT Geophysical Processor System (RGPS) to obtain high-resolution ice displacement from repeat Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imagery (Kwok, 1990). The project was specifically designed to exploit the large archive of SAR data over sea ice currently held by ESA. The ice displacement, which is determined at intervals of a few days, allows the subsequent generation of a number of different high resolution products useful for climate research including Eularian and Lagrangian motion, Ice deformation, Open water fraction and Gateway mass flux.

GlobIce Project Manager Steve Baker from MSSL, the project’s prime contractor, said: “The GlobIce project has been a long journey to success.  At the start there were significant issues with both the SAR coverage and the data supply.  ESA invested very significant new resources to improve the management of their vast SAR and ASAR data archives.  Only the new system could manage to supply the GlobIce project with the volumes of data required."

“We must also remember that, unlike RADARSAT, the ERS and ENVISAT missions were not originally set up as 'operational services'.  This meant that continuous and complete coverage of the Arctic were not mission objectives.  Our early analysis of the historical archive revealed gaps in coverage that prevented derivation of complete sea ice motion products for each winter season.  However, in 2007 ESA modified the ASAR background mission to greatly improve Arctic coverage.  We are very grateful to the Envisat Mission Manager, Henri Laur, for arranging that improvement.  I would also like to thank the UCL team and our consortium partners for their flexible working approach which has allowed us to overcome these early obstacles and achieve an excellent result.”

Although the GlobIce project was primarily focussed on developing operational products for the Arctic region, GlobIce has recently been successfully prototyped to generate products over regions of Antarctic sea ice and sample products are now available for August and September 2010.  Due to the different characteristics of south polar sea ice, which makes it difficult to monitor from many low resolution sensors, there is very little sea ice dynamics data currently available and GlobIce could be used to fill this gap in the future.

As to the future,  Alan Muir, Project Lead  Engineer, from UCL  said: “GlobICE demonstrates the tremendous potential for provision of improved operational sea ice dynamics data from ENVISAT and in particular from the enhanced coverage of ESA’s forthcoming SENTINEL-1 operational SAR mission.”


GlobIce Project Website:


Extracts taken from ESA press release,


MSSL contact: Steve Baker (GlobIce Project Manager), sgb[ a t]

Page last modified on 14 mar 12 09:23