January 21, 2016

Finnish Meteorological Institute’s method assists in winter navigation

Data from satellite measurements helps identify ice conditions that are potentially dangerous for ships.
Data from satellite measurements helps identify ice conditions that are potentially dangerous for ships.
ISTOCK.COM/MICKE_OVESSON

The Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI) has developed a method that makes it possible for ice services to utilise the measurements of the European Space Agency’s Cryosat-2 satellite. The data from the satellite measurements helps identify ice conditions that are dangerous for ships.

Various satellite measurements and imaging have long been the main source of information for ice services. FMI’s Ice Service uses various satellites for creating weekly charts. Thanks to a new study, Cryosat-2 and the soon-to-be-launched Sentinel-3 will be among these.

The new method is based on FMI’s study in which researchers utilise the waveform measured by the main instrument of Cryosat-2, the synthetic aperture radar (SAR) altimeter. Open sea and different types of ice return a different waveform, which means that, based on this data, it is possible to identify ice conditions that are potentially dangerous for ships. Thick and mounded ice in particular are easily discernable in the waveforms.

Altimeter measurements are the most useful in distant and extensive sea areas, such as the Arctic Ocean or the seas surrounding Antarctica. For the time being, altimeter-based operational ice charting is a prototype, but the intention is to develop it into an easy-to-use tool for the Ice Service.

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