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New Zealand-DLR Joint Research Programme - Synthetic Aperture radar measurements of Antarctic sea ice.

MBIE Fund:     Catalyst: Strategic - New Zealand-DLR Joint Research Programme.

About the project:
Each autumn, the sea around Antarctica freezes over - by spring, the area of ocean covered by sea ice exceeds the size of the entire continent.  The processes involved in the formation of sea ice are very sensitive to the climate, and sea ice, once formed, affects the climate.  Given its importance in the climate system, it's important that we understand the processes that affect sea ice formation and be able to simulate those processes in global climate models.

To understand these processes, we rely on accurate measurements of sea ice concentration (SIC), especially in the regions where sea ice forms.  These measurements are best done by satellite-based instruments because sea ice is so inaccessible and vast (20 million km2).  Space-based passive microwave radiometers have been used to measure Antarctic SIC, but they're ill-suited for measuring the thin sea ice occurring in the ice formation regions, and their coarse spatial resolution prevents them from resolving surface features that can be used to determine the direction of ice movement.  In this project, we are investigating using synthetic aperture radar as an alternative method to measure SIC.  Our goal is to seek opportunities to improve the quality of synthetic aperture radar measurements of Antarctic SIC and form a roadmap for future bilateral research with our DLR collaborators.