Ice Monitoring by non-Russian Satellite Data. Phase 2: Pilot Demonstration

(By Ola M. Johannesen, Stein Sandven, Kjell Kloster, Vladimir Melentyev, Leonid Bobylev ; INSROP Working Paper No. 38– 1996, I.4.2)


Use of Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) images from satellites is a technology which is playing an increasingly important role in operational sea ice monitoring. SAR images, with a resolution of 100 m, can distinguish different ice types and map leads, polynyas, shear zones, landfast ice, drifting ice and location of the ice edge. The SAR is the only instrument which provides high resolution images under different cloud and light conditions. The ERS-1 satellite, launched by the European Space Agency in 1991, is the first satellite which has provided extensive SAR coverage in most of the ice-covered areas in the world.

The Russian Arctic Ocean is one of the most important areas for ice monitoring, because the ice conditions off the Siberian coast impose severe restrictions on sea transportation, ice navigation and offshore operations. The Russian icebreaker fleet, which assists all sea transportation in the area, uses an extensive ice monitoring and forecasting service for navigation.

In several demonstration projects the Nansen Centers in Bergen and St. Petersburg have used ERS-1 SAR images to monitor sea ice conditions in near realtime at different times of the year. The demonstrations have been performed in cooperation with Murmansk Shipping Company on board icebreakers sailing mainly in the western part of the Northern Sea Route. The SAR images are used in combination with passive microwave data (SSM/I data) which provide large scale maps of ice extent and concentration at a resolution of about 30 km. The SAR images have shown good capability to map ice features which are important in ice navigation such as multiyear ice, firstyear ice, landfast ice, thin ice, leads/polynyas and areas of ridges. The demonstration projects have been supported by the Norwegian Research Council, Norwegian Space Centre, European Space Agency, Murmansk Shipping Company and INSROP. From 1995 SAR ice monitoring in the Northern Sea Route is performed in cooperation between the European Space Agency and the Russian Space Agency, with participation from NPO Planeta and the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute.

The expected result of the SAR demonstration projects is that SAR data from several satellites can be made available for operational use in ice monitoring of the Northern Sea Route.


    Ola M. Johannesen, Stein Sandven, Kjell Kloster, Vladimir Melentyev, Leonid Bobylev, 1996, Ice Monitoring by non-Russian Satellite Data. Phase 2: Pilot Demonstration, INSROP.©