In the Arctic, the ability to travel safely over sea ice is an essential part of the culture and livelihoods of communities. In particular, the boundary between the ice attached to the land and the moving ice in the open ocean (the floe-edge) is important to northern communities. Water along the floe-edge is biologically productive and therefore is an important resource to hunters and tourism operators. The fast (immobile) ice also serves as vital transportation routes between communities and to inland hunting areas. The ‘country’ food sources made accessible by transportation over ice is critical to the survival of northern communities because of the exorbitant cost of southern food sources that must be transported in by ship or aircraft. Tourism revenues are also a welcome source of income for the communities.
Information about ice conditions is also important on the Baltic Sea to support recreational activities such as skiing and ice fishing, transportation of people and goods along ice roads to islands, search and rescue operations, and winter construction activities along the shoreline.
The challenge of travelling on ice is compounded by the changing climate. The location and persistence of the ice is changing, rendering traditional knowledge less useful for safe navigation, and making travel increasingly hazardous.
For both the Arctic and the Baltic Sea, EO satellites based on synthetic aperture radar (SAR) are ideally suited for sea ice monitoring and mapping because of their ability to image through clouds, during long duration nights in the polar regions, high frequency coverage in northern latitudes, and their ability to differentiate between the ice types of most importance to users.
Polar View Community Ice Services
Polar View, through its members C-CORE, Danish Meteorological Institute, and the Finnish Meteorological Institute, has been providing fast-ice information in the Arctic for two decades. The service formerly required a human analyst to interpret SAR images in order to delineate the floe-edge and determine the fast-ice conditions. The service has recently been automated allowing larger areas to be monitored at much less cost using the data processing resources of Polar TEP. The products are generated using feature and speckle tracking of SAR image pairs. The service now provides the following products:
- Floe Edge Line
- Fast Ice Motion
- Tidal Cracks