Improved ice monitoring

December/20/2017
  • CURRENT

Improved ice monitoring

The Danish Meteorological Institute will replace helicopter surveillance of inshore sea-ice with information derived from satellite images.

The Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI) ice service has from November 1st based their in-shore ice charting around Cape Farewell in the southern part of Greenland on satellite imagery from Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT).

Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellites has the ability to image the earth independent of clouds and darkness and can cover large areas in a consistent and reliable manner,  thus making it the ideal tool for monitoring in the Arctic. 

The previous system with airplanes and later helicopters had the weakness of not being able to fly in bad weather due to safety regulations, and potentially not being able to observe the ice conditions due to fog.

Changing to a satellite based observation system removes these limitations, ensuring that updated ice reports can be produced and provided to the vessels operating in these areas on a regular basis.

Better ice-service for Greenland

The satellite data used for this service is acquired by TerraSAR-X/TanDEM-X a German satellite constellation, and is provided to DMI by KSAT in collaboration with Airbus Defence and Space.

The data will be downlinked at both KSAT polar ground stations: at the Arctic Svalbard ground station at 78’North, and at the Antarctic Troll station at 72´South. The acquired data is transferred to the KSAT headquarters in Tromsø for processing and delivery within 2 hours from acquisition. 


The acquired data is transferred to the KSAT headquarters in Tromsø for processing and delivery within 2 hours from acquisition.

The transition to satellite imagery as observation method is part of the modernization of in-shore ice charting in the Southern part of Greenland. DMI believes this will result in a better ice-service for Greenland, making observation less vulnerable to darkness and fog.

Detects even small icebergs

“The Greenlandic society receives an equally good - and in many cases better - service than before,” says meteorologist and Deputy Head of the DMI Operations Department, Søren Olufsen.

“By analyzing several sets of satellite data, ice analysts can now detect even small icebergs and shoots along the coastal so-called inner-sea sailing routes. With Synthetic Aperture Radar imagery it also applies in the dark and fog where a helicopter must stay on the ground”

The first satellite image for the service was acquired 1.November at 09:25 utc and downlinked at KSAT Svalbard Station 10:47 utc. It was processed by KSAT in Tromsø. The official ”Satellite based inshore ice report” is now available on DMI´s webpage.

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Ove Ronny Haraldsen

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