Sea ice portal: facts and background information on polar regions

Sea ice plays an important role in the Earth’s climate system. The sea ice portal provides back-ground information and expert knowledge.

The sea ice of the Arctic and Antarctic polar regions covers about 7 per cent of the Earth. The influ­ence of this region on the global climate is great. Sea ice controls in particular the heat and freshwa­ter exchange of the polar oceans and thus plays a decisive role in the Earth’s climate system. The structure, volume and surface area of sea ice are extraordinarily differentiated and variable. Due to these physical properties, sea ice has a considerable impact on the energy balance of the Earth’s surface. Sea ice is very complex and is at the same time one of the most interesting and influential materials on our planet. Moreover, it is a particularly fascinating habitat, vital for the ecosystem of the polar regions.

The sea ice portal is an initiative of the Alfred-Wegener-Institut (AWI), Helmholtz Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung (Centre for Polar and Marine Research), in cooperation with the University of Bremen (Institute of Environmental Physics). All important and current infor­mation relating to the topic of sea ice is collated and made available to the public. The portal offers extensive background information, prepared data and direct access to the database. is an open portal and is available to all scientific groups researching in the field of sea ice as a platform for communicating information about their research findings. offers the user the great advantage of direct access to different sea ice observation and research data.

The knowledge platform has three main components:

·         Background information

·         Map and data archive

·         Expert knowledge

The main aim of the first component of the new web platform is to offer extensive, understandably prepared information on the topic of sea ice in German. Questions such as "How does sea ice origi­nate?", "How is it investigated?" or "What role does it play for our Earth’s climate?" are answered on the new German-language knowledge platform in different degrees of depth and levels of detail.   

A further component is the extensive map and data archive, in which more than 7,000 graphically prepared sea ice maps and the associated data for the last ten years can currently be downloaded for further processing. Since September 2013, the first sea ice thickness maps in the world have also been published on this portal as data products of the ESA satellite CryoSat-2.

The third important component is the expert knowledge of both partner institutions on different topics concerning sea ice. This is the foundation of the knowledge platform and is located in all areas of the portal. This results in different significant quality features for the platform. For example, the evaluations and assessments accompanying the sea ice measurements are made direct by the ex­perts. The experts are also available as contact persons to answer questions. In addition, a high level of up-to-dateness is ensured with the direct connection to scientific questions of the topics pre­sented on From sea ice physicists and oceanographers to sea ice researchers – they will all have their say on and explain in which different ways the scientific study of sea ice takes place and on which topics they can give information.

Reports on the sea ice expeditions conducted by the AWI will also be given on A first step in this direction has already been taken. The two-month winter expedition of the research vessel “Polarstern", which began on June 8, 2013, has been documented with the latest images, re­ports and background informationen on and thus made accessible to a wide public.

Text and pictures: Meereisportal, Alfred-Wegener-Institute 

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