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Project title

Sea Ice Climate Change Initiative


The objectives of the Sea Ice CCI are to twofold:

(1) Provide quality-controlled ice concentration data sets for the Arctic and Antarctic from 1979 to present, based on passive microwave data.

(2) Provide Arctic sea ice thickness data sets based on radar altimeter data from 1993 to present and with the best possible validation and error characterisation.


In order to achieve the objectives of the CCI Programme, it is necessary to use the most important archives of EO data that can contribute to the sea ice ECV. The longest archive of EO data for quantification of global ice concentration, extent and area is the multi-frequency passive microwave data provided by NASA EO missions since 1979. ESA missions such as ERS and ENVISAT provide valuable additional data sets from 1991, especially radar altimeter and SAR that can provide important information about the sea ice ECV. Other EO missions, both ESA and non-ESA, can contribute to the research and validation activities to support the development of the sea ice ECV.

The ESA CCI Sea Ice project will combine and extend ongoing research to develop improved and validated timeseries of ice concentration and ice thickness for use in climate research. Since sea ice is a sensitive climate indicator with large seasonal and regional variability, the climate research community require long-term and regular observations of the key ice parameters in both Arctic and Antarctic. The project includes representatives from the scientific user community and climate research programmes to validate the ice concentration and ice thickness retrievals provided by the EO science team.   


The ESA CCI Sea Ice project will deliver global data sets on ice concentration for Arctic and Antarctic, and ice thickness data sets for the Arctic, to support climate research and monitoring according to the GCOS requirements for generation of satellite-based data sets and products. This implies provision of data sets with associated metadata, software systems, technical documentation and scientific reports/publications. Ice thickness data from radar altimeters are not available for the Antarctic as a useful data set for climate research. The data sets to be delivered as the sea ice ECV parameters are based on many years of research where the members of the consortium are playing a leading role in development and validation of the EO-based data sets.


NERSC is leader of the project and has a long record of planning and executing international research programmes as well as an extensive heritage of sea ice research which is directly relevant to this project. NERSC was leader of the ICEMON project and a number of other sea ice projects funded by ESA and EU.

Logica have provided system engineering expertise to many projects, both for ESA and for many other clients in the space domain, as well as having a substantial track record at managing ESA projects. have wide experience in observation and modelling of polar conditions, and are involved in many broad international collaborations including EUMETSAT SAF on Ocean and Sea Ice and ESA projects ICEMON and PolarView.

DMI is involved in a wide range of sea ice projects, including a key role in the EUMETSAT SAF on Ocean and Sea Ice, and operationally runs a number of HIRLAM forecast models.

DTU has over 30 years experience at developing remote sensing applications, with leading expertise in SAR processing. It has led and participated in many ESA projects on sensor development and related topics.

FMI provides research and development on, among others, sea ice remote sensing methods and forecast models with focus on the Baltic Sea. They have been involved in ice monitoring via satellite data since 1992.

UCL’s Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling is a world leader in the field of observation, modelling and physical processes controlling polar climate. The group pioneered the determination of sea ice thickness from space.

The University of Cambridge’s Polar Ocean Physics Group exists to study the mechanisms of physical processes in the polar ocean. It has been involved in many related projects, such as DAMOCLES and SYNICE.

The University of Bremen‘s PHAROS (PHysical Analysis of RemOte Sensing images) group has large experience in remote sensing of the polar surface and atmosphere with various satellite sensor types.

The University of Hamburg has long been involved in ice-ocean modelling, data assimilation, sea-ice and ocean remote sensing and quality assessment through its Integrated Climate Data Centre and Institute of Oceanography, both part of CliSAP.

Ifremer has a mixed research and engineering team which addresses many ocean and sea ice issues. For sea ice, it provides daily information of sea ice concentration, roughness and drift.

MPI-M has a dedicated research group which carries out both laboratory and field experiments on sea ice physics, using these to develop a sea ice model for climate studies which will be used in this project.

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