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a core project of

CliC Arctic Sea Ice Working Group

The first ICE cruise from Rijpfjorden, Svalbard to the edge of the Arctic Basin.Photo: ©Tor Ivan Karlsen, Norwegian Polar Institute, 2010The CliC Arctic Sea Ice Working Group (CASIWG) concentrates on improving the coordination between the sea-ice observation and modelling communities to establish protocols for standardizing and archiving data across the different national and international activities. 

The establishment of a CliC Arctic Sea-Ice Working Group complements ASPeCt in arctic regions. This working group is initially focused on improving the coordination of surface-based sea-ice and snow observations, establishing protocols for standardizing and archiving data across the different national and international activities, and linking partners to ensure that functional, sustained observing networks are established for long-term observation and monitoring of these regions.

Progress in observations should be continued in the area of assimilation of the variety of sea-ice observations into coupled atmosphere-ocean general circulation models. This will contribute to create a basis for global ocean and climate system re-analysis.

Goals of the Working Group

The goals of the Climate and Cryosphere Arctic Sea Ice Working Group (ASIWG) are:

  1. Develop, standardize, and implement observation and measurement protocols for Arctic sea ice in coastal, seasonal, and perennial ice zones;
  2. Integrate surface-based observations with remote sensing and modelling efforts; and
  3. Establish and foster connections between international groups involved in sea ice observations, modelling, remote sensing, and data assimilation.

CASIWG organized several workshops, a major part of their activities, which have fostered the needed international collaboration in achieving our goals. Results from these workshops have been disseminated through journal articles and reports, and have been published on the web. These workshops invlude:

  • Workshop on Arctic surface-based sea ice observations: Integrated protocols and coordinated data acquisition, Tromsø, January 2009
  • 2nd Meeting of the CliC Arctic Sea Ice Working Group, Tromsø, June 2010
  • CliC Arctic Sea Ice Working Group Meeting, Boulder, October/November 2011
  • Workshops on Passive Microwave Remote Sensing of Sea Ice at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD in 2011, and the Danish Meteorological Institute, Copenhagen, Denmark in 2013
  • Workshop on Boundary-Layer Processes (co-sponsored with IASC), Boulder, June 2012
  • MOSAIC Science Workshop (co-sponsored with IASC), Boulder, June 2012
  • CliC Sea Ice Modelling and Observing Workshop, Tromsø, June 2013
2014 Updates from the Working Group

CASIWG conducted several activities in 2014. A joint meeting was organized with the ASPeCt in Hobart, Australia, following the March International Glaciological Society Symposium on Sea Ice in a Changing Environment addressing standardization of observational methodologies, data access and archiving, and integrating observations and models.

The ASIWG contributed to the development of the Sea Ice Prediction Network (SIPN) and wrote a letter of endorsement for a proposal that was funded in 2013. ASIWG members Hajo Eicken and Walt Meier are active participants in the SIPN project, which started in April 2014 with a well-attended workshop in Boulder, Colorado. SIPN is already contributing to improvements in the SEARCH Sea Ice Outlook, which is currently collecting projections for the September 2014 Arctic sea ice extent. The linkages to CliC have helped make the Outlook a much more international effort, both with respect to contributors and circulation. Several ASIWG members have regularly contributed to the NOAA Arctic Report Card and to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society State of the Climate issue. Lead by Walt Meier AISWG members contributed to the Snow, Water, Ice, Permafrost in the Arctic (SWIPA) assessment report that was co-sponsored by CliC, as well as a follow-up journal article in Reviews of Geophysics. The ASIWG also contributed a section in the UNESCO Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems; Cold Regions Science and Marine Technology

IceWatchThe Ice Watch program, developed by Professor Jenny Hutchings and Alice Orlich to standardize visual sea ice observation protocols from ships was beta-tested during 2014 cruises. A software package, ASSIST, was developed to facilitate data collection and archiving. The ASIWG is helping to distribute this to the Arctic sea ice community. The software is similar to the ASPECT software used in the Antarctic, but is customized for Arctic sea ice conditions. A joint technical working group has been created between ASIWG and ASPECT to facilitate i) Arctic/Antarctic collaboration, ii) improved observation methods, and iii) transfer of technology between groups. The International Arctic Research Center (IARC) has volunteered
to be the data archive for these observations. They are also working with the Geographical Information Network of Alaska (GINA) to develop a database architecture with capability for near-real time dissemination.

Walt Meier served as the CliC representative to the WCRP Data Advisory Council (WDAC). He presented on CliC activities at the WDAC annual meeting in May. He also provided information on cryospheric data sets, including sea ice, to the Observations for Model Intercomparison Projects (Obs4MIPs) workshop in May. Obs4MIPs is a WCRP-supported effort to develop a framework to provide validated, well-documented, and consistently formatted satellite data products to climate modelers. He also provided a sea ice concentration climate data record summary document to the project and is helping to coordinate the incorporation of the product within the Obs4MIPs framework. Alexander Makshtas and Matt Shupe took part in the Second YOPP planning meeting focusing on observations (Helsinki, April 2014) with a report focusing on observations (Helsinki, April 2014) with a report about preparation of MOSAIC. They also discussed an international program of atmospheric observations, executed by Roshydromet (Russia), NOAA (USA) and FMI (Finland) at the Tiksi Hydrometeorological observatory and possible extended programs at “Ice Base Cape Baranov” in concert with Polar Observatories at Summit, Ny-Ålesund, Eureka, Alert and Barrow (www.iasoa.org) offer YOPP a comprehensive data set on the polar atmosphere and underlying surface (including fast ice and grounding icebergs) in a “picket fence” configuration surrounding the Arctic Ocean.

Plans of the Working Group for 2015 and beyond

A primary focus for the 2015 efforts is coordination. CASIWG plans to work with other groups to integrate several Arctic sea ice related activities including MOSAIC, Year of Polar Prediction, Sea Ice Prediction Network, and the ASPeCt and Sea Ice and Climate Modelling Forum. The Year of Polar Prediction is 2017-2019 and MOSAIC is planning a field campaign from 2018-2019. Now is the time to plan, coordinate, and integrate.

CASIWG plans to work on Arctic sea ice data standardization and accessibility. There are several sea ice parameters that are needed for model initialization and evaluation
including ice thickness, ice type, ice motion, and albedo. Considerable data is available on these parameters, but it is scattered in different formats and different places. One approach to help with standardization will be the development and evaluation of data templates and formats to help guide more standardized observations.

CASIWG will continue deploying the IceWatch software on Arctic cruises and work on a web site where IceWatch data can be accessed in near real-time. There will be continued development of IcePlan.org web site, designed to provide a central location for information on Arctic sea ice field activities. ASIWG members will be conducting coordinated studies of fast ice in Barrow and Cape Baranov, which are formed under different synoptic conditions in the atmosphere and ocean.

In 2015 the ASIWG would like to finalize its terms of reference and, with the approval of CliC SSG, select its Science Steering Committee. During the coming year there will be a teleconference of the members of the ASIWG-SSC to review progress and discuss future plans. In addition, the ASIWG-SSC will also hold a Town Hall meeting at an international conference.

A new activity, that builds on discussions at the last ASIWG workshop and input from the broader CliC community is to facilitate the development of sea-ice/cryospheric flagship observatories in the Arctic. This effort builds on activities by different countries to establish coastal observatory sites (e.g., CHARS in Canada, Ny-Ålesund in Svalbard, Barrow in US, Tiksi and Cape Baranov in Russia and others) with different, as of now uncoordinated sea ice and cryospheric components. The ASIWG proposes to compile an inventory of existing efforts and to develop a science plan for coordinated cryospheric flagship sites in the Arctic Ocean region. This effort would be closely coordinated with the Global Cryosphere Watch program and other relevant efforts. A first workshop will be held in the fall of 2015, in conjunction with an international meeting that already draws participants from key disciplines and countries. The details are still to be determined.

end of casiwg

Chair & Contact person Don Perovich




Main fields

Don Perovich (Chair)

CRREL, Hanover, NH, USA

Sea ice mass and energy balance

Ralf Döscher

SMHI, Norrköping, Sweden

Sea ice models

Hajo Eicken

International Arctic Research Center (IARC), University of Alaska Fairbanks, USA


Sebastian Gerland

Norwegian Polar Institute, Tromsø, Norway

Sea ice thickness and optics, Svalbard, Greeland and Barents Seas

Jennifer Hutchings

Oregon State University, USA


Alexander Makshtas

Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute, St. Petersburg, Russia

Atmosphere-sea ice interaction

Walt Meier

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, USA

Remote sensing

Jinping Zhao