Sea ice and icebergs pose a significant set of challenges in and around icebound regions. The level of shipping and offshore activities in these regions is growing steadily and with it the demand for reliable sea ice information. Particularly with the melting of the Artic sea ice, the region becomes more and more attractive for oil and gas activities.
Sea ice is formed of sea water whereas icebergs are calved from coastal glaciers, thus from fresh water and aren’t encountered in the same areas. Sea ice is a major hazard that can damage ships or vessels transporting passengers, oil, natural gas or goods. Remote sensing and satellite technologies give the possibility to study sea ice and measure for instance its thickness, its spatial extent, its motion and ridges. This information is important to know to manage operations in hazardous sea ice conditions.
Use of Satellite Imagery
Satellite imagery provides wide area, synoptic pictures of the ice conditions. Since the scale of ice fields is quite large, mainly moderate resolutions are fine down to around 10m in scale. Multispectral imagery can provide more information on ice-type but in the main, SAR imagery is used due to its all-weather and day/night capability.
The data collected can be more accurate than in-situ measurements due to a higher and faster coverage of a whole area. Constant monitoring is most important to identify the risk and opportunities (for instance in opening shipping lanes).
Uses and users
Information on sea ice can help several sectors and is used in cases such as:
Serving of offshore platforms: The oil and gas companies need to comply with very strict standards on security and protection of the environment to monitor platforms remotely and minimize risk of damage in ice-covered areas. Earth observation plays an important role assessing the ice conditions throughout the oil and gas lifecycle. Areas of current oil and gas interest include the Barents Sea (Shtockman), east and west Greenland, and the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.
Protecting platforms from icebergs: SAR imagery can provide regular updates on icebergs positions. Icebergs have a different distribution than sea ice and challenges oil and gas platforms particularly around Greenland, along the east Canadian coast, in the Barents Sea and, potentially, in the south Atlantic (Falkland Islands).
Routing ships safely (either for platforms or ports): Information on sea ice can contribute to improve navigation significantly in icebound regions. Ship need up to date information on location of ice edge and ice-free routes. Maps of the ice conditions are produced daily and delivered to ships operators and public authority. Based on these maps, ice motion, concentration, thickness and ridges can be forecasted. Icebreakers also use imagery to clear sea lanes to ensure safe passage of ships. This service can serve populated areas with ice bounded water in winter such as the Baltic, Russia, the North of China or Canada.
More than 20,000 ships travel through the Baltic to Finnish and Swedish ports on an average winter. According to EARSC analysis, between €24m and €116m per annum of economic value is being generated in Finland and Sweden thanks to the use of satellite radar images to help winter navigation in the region. There are also environmental benefits as marine pollution decreases through fewer accidents and CO2 emissions are reduced as ships save fuel thanks to more efficient routing.
As for the Arctic, according to the US Geological Survey, 30% of the world's gas and 11% of the world's oil deposits are estimated to lie beneath the region. The overall economic and environmental impacts of new shipping ways through the Arctic have not yet been made clear.
Polarview ESA GSE
ship and iceberg monitoring
Sea Ice mapping
Improve navigation safety and efficiency through the ice (lesser risks of pollution, less fuel consumption, less idle time)
Ice coverage monitoring
radar altimeter signals of sea ice and validate retrieval of ice thickness from CryoSat-2 data
ice sheet dynamics
variability and changes in ice-sheet elevation;
sea ice variability
ice variability, trends and uncertainties over the last 3 decades using passive microwave data from satellites
KSAT Ice Navigation
provides near-real time data on Iceberg locations to enable successful navigation for ships
Sea Ice Mapping
Improves navigation safety and efficiency through the ice (lesser risks of pollution, less fuel consumption, less idle time)
Article - Scientific analysis on Sea Ice conditions
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Canadian Space Agency
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Arctic ice thickness drops by up to 19 per cent
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Atmospheric controls on sea ice motion in the southern Beaufort Sea
Research paper based on the comparison of ice and atmospheric relative vorticity fields in the Beaufort Sea region (BSR) for all weeks from 1979 to 2000
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News article on the first map of sea-ice thickness from ESA's CryoSat mission
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Research paper discusses the design of a thinned-array synthetic aperture interferometric radiometer (SAIR) for dual applications
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News article on Arctic sea ice
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Full infrastructure proposal for the NORMAP project targeting an important segment of satellite based Earth Observations (EO) in the high latitude and Arctic regions
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