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Antarctic Sea-ice Processes and Climate (ASPeCt)

ASPeCt is an expert group on multi-disciplinary Antarctic sea ice zone research within the SCAR Physical Sciences programme. Established in 1996, ASPeCt has the key objective of improving our understanding of the Antarctic sea ice zone through focussed and ongoing field programmes, remote sensing and numerical modelling. The programme is designed to complement, and contribute to, other international science programmes in Antarctica as well as existing and proposed research programmes within national Antarctic programmes. ASPeCt also includes a component of data rescue of valuable historical sea ice zone information.

For more information, visit the ASPeCt website.

The overall aim of ASPeCt is to understand and model the role of Antarctic sea ice in the coupled atmosphere-ice-ocean system.  This requires an understanding of key processes, and the determination of physical, chemical, and biological properties of the sea ice zone.  These are addressed by objectives which are:

  1. To establish the distribution of the basic physical properties of sea ice that are important to air-sea interaction and to biological processes within the Antarctic sea-ice zone (ice and snow cover thickness distributions; structural, chemical and thermal properties of the snow and ice; upper ocean hydrography; floe size and lead distribution).  These data are required to derive forcing and validation fields for climate models and to determine factors controlling the biology and ecology of the sea ice-associated biota.

  2. To understand the key sea-ice zone processes necessary for improved parameterisation of these processes in coupled models.


The key scientific questions which must be answered to meet the objectives of the ASPeCt Programme are:

  • What are the broad-scale time-varying distributions of the ice and snow-cover thickness, ice composition and other physical characteristics in the Antarctic sea ice zone?
  • What are the dominant processes of ice formation, modification, decay and transport which influence and determine ice-thickness, composition and distribution?
  • What is the role of coastal polynyas in determining total ice production, heat, salt and biogeochemical fluxes, and water mass modification?
  • What are the processes that control the ice-water interactions at the ice-edge, and their seasonal changes?


For more details, visit the ASPeCt website.

Terms of Reference

ASPeCt's Terms of Reference are:

  • Provide standardization of ice observing protocols, and core and ice station sampling.
  • Provide data archive for ship observations, ice thickness profiles, ice core properties, aerial photos.
  • Provide metadata directory to experiment data sets, buoy data.
  • Sponsor workshops and conference sessions on topics of interest.
  • Coordinate international collaboration on experiments.
  • Facilitate data exchanges and joint analyses
  • Collaborate with other groups (e.g AntClim21, SORP ) where such collaboration draws upon the expertise within ASPeCt.
  • Coordinate exchanges of data and ideas between observers and climate modellers with the aim of improving climate model simulations.
  • Provide expertise and consultation to SCAR, CliC, and WCRP on Antarctic sea ice.


ASPeCt's Main Themes or Study Areas:

  • Snow and Sea Ice Climatology (Ship Obs)
  • Snow and Ice Properties (Cores, Thickness, Sampling)
  • Time Series of Sea Ice Processes (Drifting Stations and Ice Mass Balance Buoys) Coastal Polynya Process Experiments
  • Ice Edge Process Experiments
  • Validation of Remote Sensing for application in Sea Ice Modeling Coordination of sea ice observations from coastal stations (AFIN-Antarctic Fast Ice Network) 


Key Questions that ASPeCt addresses:

  • How is Antarctic sea ice responding to global change? Why is Antarctic sea ice extent increasing?
  • How important is the sea ice for the ecosystem?
  • What is the role of the sea ice pump for CO2 exchange between ocean and atmosphere? How is sea ice thickness changing?
  • What is the role of snow processes?
  • How can we distinguish climate trends from inter-annual variability? What variables control the predictability of sea ice?


Activities:

  • ASPeCt Metadata in the Global Change Master Directory.
  • Development of ice cameras to be used automatically on ships of opportunity.
  • Organize sessions at SCAR Open Science Conferences and other meetings.
  • Coordination with SOOS, IICWG (International Ice Chart Working Group).
  • Planning to develop data archives for AUV under ice data, aerial photography, airborne lidar, (from manned and unmanned aircraft).

 
ASPeCt organizational structure

ASPeCt has a leadership structure consisting of a Vice-Chair, Chair, Immediate past Chair, Early Career Scientist (ECS). The Vice- Chair serves for at least two years. The Chair serves for at least four years. The Immediate Past Chair Serves for at least two years. Each post is renewable/extendable in two-year increments. The Vice-Chair does not automatically become Chair and there is the opportunity for the leadership to be renewed every two years.

Two other positions within the leadership structure consist of an appointed ASPeCt Representative on SOOS (if appointed by SOOS then on their SSC, or ex-officio if not on the SSC) and an appointed Communication and Data Executive (typically at the AAD where the ASPeCt database, website, etc are currently housed).

 

ASPeCt Science and Implementation Plan

Executive Summary

The ASPeCt program aims to improve our understanding of sea ice physical processes and ocean-atmosphere interaction in the sea-ice zone. As a SCAR program, ASPeCt is focused on the unique regional environment of the Antarctica, but is closely linked to the global climate change research agenda through SCAR’s “Antarctica and the Global Climate System” (AGCS) program. The inter-disciplinary components of ASPeCt are designed to contribute to, and extend, other international climate, ocean and biology programs.

The primary objectives of ASPeCt are:

  • To determine the spatial and temporal variability of the basic physical properties of sea ice that are important to air-sea interaction and to biological processes within the Antarctic sea-ice zone (ice and snow cover thickness distributions; structural, chemical and thermal properties of the snow and ice; upper ocean hydrography; floe size and lead distribution); and
  • To understand the key sea-ice zone processes necessary for improved parameterisation of these processes in coupled models.

Important problems remaining to be adequately covered by Antarctic sea ice research programs include:

  • The broad climatology of sea ice physical characteristics;
  • Processes such as ice formation, water mass modification, the maintenance of polynyas, ice edge and coastal fronts, gas exchange, and atmosphere-ice-ocean interaction; and
  • Modelling sea-ice processes in coupled atmosphere-ice-upper ocean models and linking scales from local to regional to global scales in models.

The ASPeCt program will build on existing and proposed research programs, and the shipping activities of national Antarctic operators. It will also include a component of data-rescue of valuable historical sea ice zone information. The ASPeCt program will achieve its aims by:

  • Maintaining an ongoing system of quantified shipboard observations that provides statistical descriptions of ice and snow thickness distributions;
  • Identifying important data rescue projects that can provide quantitative historical sea ice zone information;
  • Conducting ship-based process experiments at coastal polynyas, ice edges and interior pack ice zones;
  • Integrating ASPeCt observations and experiments with complementary efforts in drifting buoys, upward looking sonar, satellite records and physical oceanography; and
  • Providing validation and input data on ice properties and processes for coupled numerical models and satellite-based sensors.

Download the full Science and Implementation Plan

 

Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research
c/o Scott Polar Research Institute
University of Cambridge
Lensfield Road
Cambridge, CB2 1ER, United Kingdom
Tel: +44 1223 336550
info@scar.org