Access biological sea-ice data

  • December 2017

Micro-algae that grow associated with Antarctic sea-ice are pivotal for biogeochemical cycling in the Southern Ocean and underpin many food webs by providing a critical early-season food source for pelagic herbivores.

However, ice algal biomass is difficult to measure systematically because it cannot be measured from satellites.

As part of SOOS’ mission to make circumpolar datasets more accessible, we have teamed up with ASPeCt (Antarctic Sea Ice Processes and Climate) scientists to bring together biological data from 1300 historical sea-ice cores into a single ready-to-use file.

The ASPeCt-Bio data were compiled by Klaus Meiners (ACE-CRC, Australia) from cores collected during 32 cruises between 1983 and 2008. Samples were collected by members of the ASPeCt community and yielded data on the vertical distribution of chlorophyll-a concentration - a proxy for total algal biomass. 
SOOS’ intern, David Pasquale, compiled the data into a single netCDF file, ready for use in evaluating or constraining models of habitat, seasonal biogeochemical cycling or ice algal biomass availability.

Louise Newman and Andrew McPhee working with an Antarctic sea-ice core.

ASPeCt and BEPSII (Biogeochemical Exchanges Processes at Sea Ice Interfaces) are extending the ASPeCt-Bio data by expanding their sampling efforts into coastal areas near research stations in a bid to fill gaps in the spatial distribution of the historical ice-core data.

The ASPeCt-Bio data can be downloaded as an aggregated netCDF file or as individual Excel files from the Australian Antarctic Data Centre. The aggregated netCDF file will soon also be available for interrogation and download through SOOSmap.

Meiners, K. (2013, updated 2017) ASPeCt-Bio: Chlorophyll a in Antarctic sea ice from historical ice core dataset Australian Antarctic Data Centre - CAASM Metadata (

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