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Ice Floe Tracker: An Open-Source Tool Enabling Novel Observations of Sea Ice Motion from Visual Remote Sensing Imagery
  • +4
  • Daniel Mark Watkins,
  • Ellen Buckley,
  • Minki Kim,
  • Carlos Paniagua,
  • Timothy Divoll,
  • Maria I Restrepo,
  • Monica M Wilhelmus
Daniel Mark Watkins
Center for Fluid Mechanics, Brown University

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

Author Profile
Ellen Buckley
Center for Fluid Mechanics, Brown University
Minki Kim
Center for Fluid Mechanics, Brown University
Carlos Paniagua
Center for Computation and Visualization
Timothy Divoll
Center for Computation and Visualization
Maria I Restrepo
Center for Computation and Visualization
Monica M Wilhelmus
Center for Fluid Mechanics, Brown University


Ice Floe Tracker is an open-source tool designed to retrieve floe-scale sea ice motion in the Arctic marginal ice zone during spring and summer.  Ice Floe Tracker enables observation of the floe size distribution, ice floe rotation rates, small-scale variation in floe velocity, and individual floe trajectories. Sea ice motion occurs on a wide range of scales, from the interaction of individual pieces of ice at sub-meter scales, the formation of linear kinematic features, and ice transport via basin-wide gyres. Most existing methods for tracking ice motion from remote sensing imagery rely on cross-correlation and are optimized for the winter season in the central Arctic. Cross-correlation-derived motion vectors estimate area-averaged motion and thus are well-suited for close-packed central Arctic ice; however, such estimates have high uncertainties in the dynamic, strongly deforming sea ice cover of the marginal ice zone. Our tool aims to fill this gap by using shape detection and feature tracking to observe floe-scale ice motion.
The Ice Floe Tracker algorithm consists of a series of customizable modules. The code is structured as a modular package written in open-source languages. It includes parallel processing, unit testing, a command line interface, and thorough documentation (available on Github). Routines are provided to download imagery from the NASA Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer. The satellite imagery is processed to enhance the contrast between liquid water and sea ice, sharpen floe boundaries, and remove atmospheric noise. The image is then segmented, and geometric features of ice floes are extracted. Finally, ice floe geometry and locations are compared to those in subsequent images and linked to form trajectories.  By making this tool open-source, we aim to encourage cross-disciplinary collaboration. Recent results from collaborations between observational oceanography and discrete-element sea ice model development will be highlighted. 
21 Dec 2023Submitted to ESS Open Archive
27 Dec 2023Published in ESS Open Archive