What are the main datasets characterizing sea ice typology, thickness, density, "passability", presence of pressure ridges in the Arctic?

Is it something that can be detected from the air or a space satellite, or from a surface station only?

How extensive is our coverage of ice conditions in the Arctic?


Concerning datasets, there are several, depends on Your final purpose.

One of the simplest is output from OSI-SAF, which has info about Sea Ice edge, concentration, type, emissivity and drift. It is derived mostly from polar orbiting meteorological satellites, I guess. More detailed info can be found on Univ of Illinois pages Visual images from MODIS satellitescan be handy

But, most detailed info about sea ice conditions can be derived with radar satellites, with commercial options like radarsat being available. From free sources, data from Sentinel-1 is available since late 2014.

So the best info is available from satellites, in-situ measurements do not cover most of the area.

Our knowledge of Arctic sea ice is pretty good IMO, at least since 1979 when satellites started to measure the extent. Understanding the age of sea ice is a bit more tricky, as it can be up to ten, maybe even few more years old.


What do you mean by "datasets"? Are you simply asking about the sources of research/information regarding polar ice?

I worked on a bowhead whale study in the Arctic Ocean for a couple seasons. One of the guys running the project was a retired U.S. naval officer. I remember him commenting on the research done by Germans - WWII era Germans, to be precise. As near as I can recall, he suggested that the Nazis were responsible for the bulk of the early knowledge. Then again, he may have been referring more to underwater acoustics than to the actual ice conditions.

Native peoples have long had extensive knowledge of polar ice conditions, of course. There was a guy who was born in Greenland but educated in Denmark who became one of the most famous explorers. I believe he wrote a book(s) that was considered he Bible of all things Arctic. I think the person I'm thinking of is Knud Rasmussen, though I haven't actually read his book and can't remember the title offhand. But I suspect you could find a lot of general information about polar ice there.

EDIT: Sorry, wrong guy (though his works might still be worth examining). I was thinking of Vilhjalmur Stefansson's book "The Friendly Arctic." I believe it was long considered the Bible of everything Arctic.

  • $\begingroup$ "Across Arctic America: Narrative of the Fifth Thule Expedition" ? Is that the one? $\endgroup$ Oct 30 '15 at 3:19
  • $\begingroup$ "Datasets" mean compendia of machine-readable geolocated data, preferably with error margins and other research-quality metadata. $\endgroup$ Oct 30 '15 at 3:22
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry, I was actually thinking of Vilhjalmur Stefansson's book "The Friendly Arctic." As I said, I haven't read it, but I suspect it might contain a wealth of general natural history regarding polar ice. $\endgroup$ Oct 30 '15 at 21:36

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