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International Polar Day - Sea Ice

September 21st, 2007 marks the first of quarterly International Polar Days.... this time focusing on Sea Ice.

About Sea Ice
Sea ice, the thin layer of ice that covers most of the Arctic Ocean and surrounds most of the Antarctic continent, represents a distinctive feature of our planet.  Sea ice spreads and retreats seasonally.  It drifts and packs under the influence of wind and currents.  It isolates the atmosphere from the ocean and produces the coldest saltiest ocean waters.  It restricts the movement of ships but supports the traverses of bears.  Sea ice contains unique organisms that sustain under-ice ecosystems.  Poised where slight warming converts ice to water, sea ice has an exquisite sensitivity to climate.  Its disappearance from any region, at any season, will represent a profound planetary change.  Understanding sea ice and predicting its future represents a crucial challenge for IPY.

Download this flyer about IPY and Sea Ice or read it on this IPY and Sea Ice webpage.

Sea Ice For Press
(press releases, contacts, images, projects)

Sea Ice for Educators
(experiments, resources, live cruises, polar activities and more)

Launch a Virtual Balloon
(show your involvement in this International Polar day)

IPY Projects Studying Sea Ice
Over 30 IPY projects study some aspect of Sea Ice. This includes ship expeditions, remote sensing, sea ice ecosystems, the importance of sea ice to polar bears and marine mammals, climate research, exhibitions, and books.

Contact IPY Sea Ice Scientists (click for contacts).

Research Projects and Expeditions
Sea Ice is currently being studied both from expeditions and by remote sensing. These include the following: (more details on the expedition page)


Antarctic Sea Ice in IPY (ASPECT) (IPY Project 141)

ASPECT has a number of associated expeditions investigating Sea Ice. These include:

SIPEX: Sea Ice Physics and Eco-system eXperiment
This Australian led expedition to the Southern Ocean will be conducting a range of exciting experiments in the sea ice that surrounds the Antarctic continent during September and October 2007. The cruise involves 45 scientists from 8 different countries, as well as two teachers developing educational activities and real-time opportunities for classrooms and media around the world.

SIMBA: Sea Ice Mass Balance in the Antarctic

CliC Marine Cryosphere program
Sea ice thickness is fundamental to the understanding of climate, ocean circulation and polar biological systems.  However, routine, comprehensive sea ice thickness measurements are not available.  Leading sea ice scientists from the Climate and Cryosphere (CliC) project discussed how to determine circum-Antarctic sea ice thickness on time scales ranging from days to seasons to years. Read this summary, including directions for future research.  More details are also available on the CLiC website.  For hard copies, please contact

DAMOCLES Expeditions (IPY Project ID 40)
DAMOCLES (Developing Arctic Modeling and Observing Capabilities for Long-term Environmental Studies) is an integrated ice-atmosphere-ocean monitoring and forecasting system designed for observing, understanding and quantifying climate changes in the Arctic. DAMOCLES is specifically concerned with the potential for a significantly reduced sea ice cover, and the impacts this might have on the environment and on human activities, both regionally and globally. The DAMOCLES project is collecting data from a variety of locations, including floating platforms, ships, aeroplanes, and satellites. DAMOCLES expeditions occurring now include the RV Polarstern and polar schooner, Tara.

ICED-IPY (IPY Project 92)
Changes in sea ice can have a direct impact on ecosystems in many ways, for example, through shifts in the amount of habitat available for ice- associated animals. 
Understanding more about how climate processes affect the marine ecosystem of the Southern Ocean is of great importance and forms a key focus of the ICED programme. ICED is forging new links between scientists working in different areas to improve understanding of the links between climate and biology.
Read more about ICED projects related to Sea Ice or download this ICED-Sea Ice PDF

IPY-Circumpolar Flaw Lead (CFL) System Study
A major international effort under Canadian leadership that aims at understanding how changes in the physical system affect biological processes, towards a better understanding of the potential effects of climate change. The CFL Project is part of IPY 26 Sea Ice & Arctic Marine Ecosystems. Download more information in these fact sheets:
English French Inuktitut

ANDRILL (IPY Project 256)
A multinational science group drilling geologic sediment cores from the ocean floor under the sea ice in the Ross Sea. Although the project is not studying sea ice specifically, an understanding of its dynamics is essential. The drill has been specially designed to drill through the sea ice and then through the water column to the sea floor.

NORCLIM (IPY Project 120)
The NORCLIM programme is about human adaptation to rapid climatic change during the last 2000 years. Three key areas have been selected, based on archaeological evidence and potential to obtain high quality marine sediment cores. These cores are excellent archives of climatic and environmental change. After an expedition to Svalbard earlier this month, the next expedition will focus on the fjords of Newfoundland where archaeological evidence on land is well studied. The research will be carried out onboard the Russian R/V Akademik loffe.

Arctic GOOS (IPY Project 379)
The overall objective of IPY Arctic GOOS to develop and implement operational monitoring and forecasting systems in the Arctic Ocean and adjacent seas. The systems will be based on state-of-the-art remote sensing, in situ observations, numerical modelling, data assimilation and dissemination techniques. Several components of Arctic GOOS are presently in operation, producing daily information that can be downloaded from web sites. These pages also shows latest information on Sea Ice.

National Snow and Ice Data Centre
The National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) will be issuing Sea Ice updates 1-2 times per week through the first week of October, marking the end of the 2007 melt season with a formal press release summarizing the data and findings.  The NSIDC site includes an All About Sea Ice education site as well as Sea Ice Information for Press with high-resolution graphics, an RSS feed for automatic notification of updates, and Frequently Asked Questions About Sea Ice.

Ice Logistics Portal
The IPY Ice Logistics Portal is a joint initiative of JCOMM-ETSI and Polar View, aimed at creating a convenient point of access to operational sea ice information produced by the world