OASIIS: Observing and Understanding the Ocean below Antarctic Sea Ice and Ice Shelves

Designing the next phase of the under-ice observing system in the Southern Ocean

  • This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , CSIRO Australia
  • August 2016

A new Partnership for Observations of the Global Oceans (POGO) working group has been established, with the aim of advancing under-ice observations in the Southern Ocean. The new working group has been named OASIIS: Observing and Understanding the Ocean below Antarctic Sea Ice and Ice Shelves, and was established with the support of SOOS.

Understanding the interactions between the Southern Ocean, atmosphere, and cryosphere is fundamental to our understanding of global climate, biogeochemical cycles, biological productivity, and sea-level rise.  Despite this global imperative, the ocean beneath the Antarctic sea ice and ice shelves remains one of the least observed physical systems on the planet.  This has limited our progress in understanding air-ice-ocean interactions and their sensitivity to climate change. The only way to fill this gap - the largest ‘blind spot’ in the global ocean observing system – is through an internationally coordinated, integrated and circumpolar under-ice observing system in the Southern Ocean (Figure 1).


Figure 1:  The main sampling domains for an under-ice observing system.

Over the past decade, technological advancements in ocean observing mean we now have the capability to observe beneath the Antarctic sea-ice and ice shelves. Many key platforms such as Argo floats, ice-tethered profilers, gliders, instrumented-seals, moorings, passive and active acoustics, satellites, etc. have proven successful in returning data from these harsh environments and are deployment-ready now. The OASIIS WG will outline how we can effectively use existing platforms to form the backbone of an under-ice observing system. It will also identify important new technologies/sensors and explore how to advance them. Rapid development of technology into the future will allow us to expand upon this core capability and enhance under-ice observations even further.

The goal of the OASIIS WG is to develop a detailed implementation plan for an under-ice observing system, including quantitative sampling requirements and identification of leaders (teams) to take forward implementation of key elements of the observing system. OASIIS will build on the success of the 2012 SOOS workshop that articulated the scientific rationale and justification for an under-ice observing system in the Southern Ocean in the report “Seeing Below the Ice: A strategy for observing the ocean beneath Antarctic sea and ice shelves” (download here).

OASIIS will organise a workshop to be held in Autumn 2017 (location/date TBD) to make progress on these goals. In preparation for the workshop, OASIIS be commissioning specific discussion papers on topics such as:

1.  What is the optimal and feasible strategy for deployment of acoustically and non-acoustically tracked floats?

2.  How can we combine under-ice (e.g. AUV), through-ice (e.g. boreholes) and on-ice (e.g. radar) measurements to observe the ocean and bathymetry beneath ice shelves?

3.  How do we best integrate observations and modelling efforts?

4.  What is the status of biological and biogeochemical sensors appropriate for deployment on autonomous vehicles in the sea ice zone?

5.  What is the status of key technologies in terms of readiness and relevance for an integrated under-ice observing system (e.g. floats, gliders, ice-tethered platforms, acoustic navigation, biogeochemical sensors, expendable moorings, AUVs and UAVs)

6.  What role can sensor networks play in providing a coherent picture of physics, chemistry and biology on time-scales from months to decades?

 To find out more about the OASIIS WG, please contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , or visit the project page on the SOOS site.

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