UCL News


GlobIce: mapping the movement of sea ice

14 March 2012

A UCL-led project to map changes in sea ice in the Arctic has released its data after the conclusion of the 5 year project.


Available for use in climate models by scientists and partner institutions such as the UK Met Office, the data could help improve current climate models. 

Launched in 2005 with a consortium of eight partners led by UCL, the aim of the €1 million GlobIce project was to measure sea ice motion for use in climate modelling and research.

Sea ice profoundly affects the exchanges of heat, water and momentum between the ocean and atmosphere, and plays an important role in oceanic convection and deep-water formation.  

"The data which the GlobIce system can provide is essential to understanding the dynamics of the rapidly changing sea ice cover in the Arctic," said Dr Seymour Laxon (UCL Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling).

Using radar images of ice displacement determined at intervals of a few days, the team, which included engineers and project managers at the UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory, used the images to generate a large number of high-resolution products useful for climate research, such as sea ice velocity maps.

The data which the GlobIce system can provide is essential to understanding the dynamics of the rapidly changing sea ice cover in the Arctic

Seymour Laxon

Offering ten times better resolution than any other satellite images, GlobIce provides incredibly accurate information about sea ice dynamics in the Arctic. 

With missions like ESA's CryoSat producing increasingly detailed measurements of the thickness and extent of polar ice, the high-resolution maps produced by GlobIce could also help interpret the data.

"GlobIce can also be used to interpret other critical data, such as the ice thickness measurements now being provided by CryoSat," said Dr Laxon.

Although the GlobIce project primarily focused on developing operational products for the Arctic region, it has recently been prototyped to generate products over the Antarctic. Sample products of the Antarctic are now available for August and September 2010.

Owing 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 available. GlobIce could be used to fill this gap in the future.

 "The increasing complexity and resolution of climate models lead to a demand for comprehensive datasets against which to test them," said Dr Jeff Ridley, climate scientist at the UK Met Office. 

"With GlobIce, we finally have a sea ice dataset which will endure and provide for model evaluation now and in years to come," he added. 

Image: Average monthly sea ice velocity for 1st January 2009, overlaid on a cloud-free satellite image mosaic (Credit: UCL/ESA/Planetary Visions)


UCL Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling
Mullard Space Science Laboratory