Sea-ice Thickness and Snow Depth in the Weddell, Bellingshausen and Amundsen Seas from IceSAT and IceBridge Data Sets

Principal Investigator

Xianwei Wang (Sun Yat-Sen University, China)

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Funded by NSF of China, No.41371404, 2014/01-2017/12 

To measure circumpolar mean sea-ice thickness in the Antarctic region, current practice uses ship observation data. However these data are usually from different years in different regions, which can mask year-to-year variability, even for the same region.

To overcome this, satellite and airborne data derived from platforms such as IceSAT and IceBridge provide the best opportunity to derive long-term sea-ice thickness in the circumpolar sea-ice zone.

In recent years, the Weddell, Bellingshausen and Amundsen sectors have shown a significant reduction in the sea-ice cover in the Antarctic regions, so we expect a climate signal to show in ice thickness and/or snow depth data, more so than elsewhere in the sea-ice zone.

By gathering a long time series from 2003-2015 on snow freeboard and derived ice thickness from combined IceSAT and IceBridge analyses, critical variables in untangling interactions and feedbacks between atmosphere, ice and ocean will be possible.

Ultimately, gridded ice thickness and snow depth data sets will be provided over the repeated flight lines of the IceBridge Airborne altimeter in the Weddell, Bellingshausen, and Amundsen Seas for both the IceSAT and IceBridge periods extending from 2003-2015. Data sets will also be provided over wider areas of these seas and other regions of the Antarctic sea-ice zone over the shorter period of IceSAT circumpolar coverage, 2003-2008.

Data will be archived in the SOOS data center and SOOS partner the National Snow and Ice Data Centre, where present and future raw altimeter data is archived and is planned for the archiving of future IceBridge flights. These gridded data sets will be available for the IPCC AR6 modeling studies and other climate models in these open systems.

Linkages are established with the Antarctic Sea-ice Processes and Climate (ASPeCt) programme of SCAR, where coordinated vessel, airborne and satellite lidar Cal/Val experiments are undertaken. Participation in the NASA IceBridge meetings to consult on flight lines and processes of Antarctic sea-ice has been done over the past three years by the co-investigators.

Other key participants

S. Ackley (University of Texas at San Antonio, USA)

H. Xie (University of Texas at San Antonio, USA)

H. Huang (Sun Yat-Sen University, China)



Wang, X., H. Xie, Y. Ke, S. Ackley and L. Liu., 2013. A method to automatically determine sea level for referencing ice elevations and computing sea-ice thickness from NASA IceBridge airborne LIDAR. Remote Sensing of Environment,131,160-172

Xie, H., S.F. Ackley, D. Yi, H.J. Zwally, P. Wagner, B. Weissling, M. Lewis, K. Ye, 2011. Sea-ice thickness distribution of the Bellingshausen Sea from surface measurements and IceSAT altimetry. Deep Sea Research Part II, doi:10.1016/j.dsr2.2010.10.038

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