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In Situ Observations of the Interplay Between Sea Ice and the Atmosphere and Ocean
  • Lily Wu¹,
  • Ignatius Rigor²,
  • Muyin Wang²
Lily Wu¹
Texas A&M University, Cooperative Institute for Climate, Ocean, and Ecosystem Studies (CICOES)
Ignatius Rigor²
Cooperative Institute for Climate, Ocean, and Ecosystem Studies (CICOES), Polar Science Center, Applied Physics Laboratory at the University of Washington
Muyin Wang²
Cooperative Institute for Climate, Ocean, and Ecosystem Studies (CICOES), NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (NOAA-PMEL)


The International Arctic Buoy Programme (IABP) maintains fundamental in situ components of the Arctic Observing Network. Automated Drifting Stations (ADS) consisting of sea ice, meteorological, and oceanographic buoys are collectively deployed at many sites with webcams to help understand the intricate and complex interactions between sea ice, the atmosphere, and the ocean.
While passive microwave satellites provide substantial information about the Arctic, remote sensing still has resolution limitations despite broad spatial coverage. Climate modeling and atmospheric reanalysis help surmount these limitations, but traditional observational methods of in situ data collection still have many advantages. Buoys and webcams can monitor Arctic sea ice changes above and below, allowing for more direct observations of localized ice floes when deployed in close proximity.
Using data from webcams in the Arctic, we have stitched together images into time-lapse animations that provide insight into physical sea ice processes. Coupled with buoy data, we compare physical measurements (like temperature) with webcam observations (like cloud cover) to explain trends and anomalies. For example, isothermal periods in the buoy temperature data match time-lapse images with cloudy skies, while the opposite is also true: high variability correlates with sunny skies. Hence, these instruments allow for the verification of Arctic observations both visually and statistically.
Although significant challenges like camera lifetimes and temporal resolution still persist, we argue that buoys and time-lapse videos can help validate satellite data and offer cheaper solutions to collecting vital information that increases our understanding of geophysical processes. We’ve compiled these datasets and present case studies showing the use of time-lapse videos to help monitor and understand the interplay and processes of the Arctic environment.
21 Dec 2023Submitted to ESS Open Archive
21 Dec 2023Published in ESS Open Archive