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Geophysical aspects of sea-ice nomenclatures

Student projects from a course on Sea-Ice Geophysics at the University of Alaska Fairbanks




While the importance of sea ice in the global climate system has received increasing attention during the latter half of this century, the sea-ice cover has long been of significance for navigation and other human activities in the polar and sub-polar oceans. Out of these long traditions in polar travel, sea-ice nomenclature systems have evolved in different languages and cultures. For operational and scientific purposes, the Sea Ice Nomenclature of the WMO (World Meteorological Organization: WMO sea-ice nomenclature, terminology, codes and illustrated glossary, WMO/DMM/BMO 259-TP-145, Secretariat of the WMO, Geneva, 1985) represents a synthesis of such existing systems and has become the international standard nomenclature.

Since the sea-ice terminology has been established based on visual observations made mostly in the context of (ship) travel in the polar regions, it is of interest to examine the nomenclature from a geophysical perspective. For instance, studies of sea ice in the context of ocean-ice-atmosphere interaction or remote sensing may require a level of discrimination that is not provided by the terminology - or vice-versa. On the other hand, visual ship-based observations still constitute an important component in collecting ground-truth and field data for large-scale sea-ice research programs, such as the development of a Southern Ocean shipboard ice observation protocol, developed in the framework of SCAR's Antarctic Sea Ice Processes and Climate Program (ASPeCt).

The web pages listed below, which have been produced by participants in a course on sea-ice geophysics taught at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, provide some background and material for discussion on the geophysical aspects of sea-ice nomenclatures (it should be kept in mind that these are but one product out of a busy semester's worth of assignments). A short illustrated glossary provides an overview over the most important sea-ice terms and processes (photos on all pages by H. Eicken if not noted otherwise).


Sections (N.B.: Some pages still under construction!)




Last update: September 1, 1999
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