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Space-borne observations for detecting and forecasting sea ice cover extremes

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - SPICES (Space-borne observations for detecting and forecasting sea ice cover extremes)

Période du rapport: 2016-06-01 au 2018-05-31

SPICES was a Research and Innovation Action (RIA) project under the H2020-EO-1-2014 New ideas for Earth-relevant space applications call in 2014, and it run from June 2015 to May 2018. The main objectives of the SPICES were to 1) develop new methods to retrieve sea ice parameters from existing (and imminent) satellite sensors to provide enhanced products for polar operators and prediction systems, specifically addressing extreme and unexpected conditions, and 2) improve capabilities to forecast seasonal sea ice extremes. These two main objectives were further divided into following specific objectives:

• detection of multi-year ice (MYI) floes in a area composed mostly FY from SAR,
• detection of heavily ridged ice regions from SAR,
• detection of most thickest ice from radar altimeter (RA) thickness profiles,
• detection of regionally anomalous thick or thin ice via SMOS data,
• detection of sea ice areas vulnerable for the wave action,
• detection of early/late melting season and
• improving capabilities to forecast seasonal sea ice extremes.

These specific SPICES objectives responded to the increasing need of satellite and ocean-sea ice model data derived information to support safe shipping in the ice infested waters as well as produce new indicators to monitor sea ice changes in the Arctic Ocean

The SPICES project team comprised 14 organizations that are European leaders and among the world leaders in the field of satellite remote sensing as applied to Polar sea ice monitoring and forecasting.
The SPICES highlights are

1. Sea ice ridges are main obstacles for ship in sailing ice covered waters, but ridges aren’t not yet automatically detected from satellite images. In the SPICES, we have developed a new algorithm to detect ridging intensity from SAR images. This is an important new parameter for ice navigation.

2. The CryoSat mission was designed to serve climate research. However, we found that daily trajectory data of sea-ice thickness can be used for the detection of extremes of the sea ice cover. The new product can be used to assess regional thickness changes with daily resolution as well as for detecting thick ice with high resolution.

3. To response IMO Polar Code, we have a novel method to determine Risk Index Outcome (RIO) based on CryoSat-2 data. The method is robust and could be applied to the other altimeter satellite (Sentinel-3, IceSat-2) observations too.

4. L-band passive microwave satellites are good for detecting thin ice regions. However, data from different satellites deviates. In order to solve this problem, we have developed an algorithm to combine SMOS and SMAP brightness temperature measurements to a consistent ice thickness time series.

5. In the marginal ice zone, ocean waves have large impact on ice conditions. In these conditions, pancake ice is formed. In the SPICES, new field data were used to develop algorithm pancake ice detection with a great success.

6. We have also developed a new method to map extension of the fast ice in the Arctic coastal regions based on Sentinel-1 SAR data.

7. Pack ice albedo and melt ponds are important climate parameters. For these parameters, we have advance in using MERIS and OLCI sensors to detect their inter-annual and regional variability.

8. Finally, SPICES has made marked progress in enhancing assimilation of sea ice products to prediction models. Numerical experiments with ECMWF seasonal prediction models suggest that using sea-ice thickness observations to improve the initial conditions leads to improved seasonal forecasts for years with extremely low summer sea-ice extent.

SPICES dissemination activities include
•A promotional video was produced on May 2016
• All deliverables have been completed and made available in the project www-page
• 17 journal articles has been produced. These are also available from the project www-page.
• A booth for a dissemination of the SPICES results at the European Space Solution Conference at den Haag on 31 May to 3 June 2016 was arranged.
• SPICES User workshop was organized on 1 March 2017 (
• A joint user service test case, where we provided satellite derived observations and sub-seasonal forecast of sea ice to client for a selection a transit route from Asia to Europe, was conducted
• SPICES scientists organized together with the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) a workshop focusing on the “Cryospheric Extremes” in April 2018
• SPICES results were disseminated to the Arctic off-shore operators in the Arctic Shipping Forum ( in April 2018.
The SPICE project aims to 1) the development of new methods for retrieval of sea ice parameters from existing and near future EO sensors, especially the ESA Sentinels, 2) integration of new sea ice products into forecasting systems for sea ice, and 3) demonstration and evaluation of weekly-to-seasonal scale sea ice forecasts. The SPICES sea ice products are targeted for use in scientific (sea ice processes and trends etc.) and operational (ship navigation, off-shore oil and gas exploration, fishing etc.) activities in the Arctic and Antarctic Oceans. The products can be integrated into operational service chains by EUMETSAT OSI SAF, national ice services and to the Copernicus Marine Services.