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Sea Ice Index

submitted by Walt Meier, National Snow and Ice Data Center, University of Colorado, Boulder

General Description

Sea Ice Index

The Sea Ice Index is a collection of data and tools to examine sea ice trends and data. It includes browse images and tools to compare and animate a time series of images. Raw data and images of total extent and area, anomalies, and trends are provided.

Uses of the Program

This tool provides qualitative comparisons of sea ice from 1978-present. Animations can show seasonal and interannual variability as well trends in the sea ice. It can be used to discuss climate change and its impacts on sea ice and vice versa. It can be tied into discussion of impacts on changes, such as on polar bears. Raw data can be downloaded and imported into Excel or other spreadsheet, data processing software and trends and variability can be investigated quantitatively. The tool is used by fellow scientists for general data and quick information on the state of sea ice.

Audience and Setting

This tool is suitable for high school and above. It can tie in with a climate change section, as well as demonstrating applications of statistics in a math class. Students can do their investigations individually or in small groups, or the teacher can use to present to a full classroom. The tool is completely computer-based.

Examples of Educational Use

Students discussing signs of climate change can look at Arctic sea ice fields to see the declining trend. Or in a more general climate discussion, students can look at how sea ice varies with the seasons in the context of how seasons change and how the southern hemisphere is opposite of the northern hemisphere.

Example Assignments

Whither Arctic Sea Ice? is an educational module built around the Sea Ice Index

Related activity Sea Ice Extension for the Earth as a System Learning Activity

At the 2008 workshop on Teaching with New Geoscience Tools, faculty brainstormed for ideas about ways to teach using snow and ice data from the NSICD. Here are their ideas:

How to Get the Software

The Sea Ice Index is available through an interactive web interface and should be accessible from any browser. Data and images can be downloaded via ftp, again through any browser or ftp server. There is no cost.

How to Use this Software

The main Sea Ice Index web page contains images for the most recent month. Tabs on the left provide access to historical data: "Browse and Compare Images" accesses spreadsheet tool where multiple images can be viewed simultaneously so that the different months, years, or hemispheres can be compared side by side "Archived Data and Images" - provides access to data and tools to view historical data, including animation of images - either month-by-month, or year-by-year for a given month.


All About Sea Ice
Information pages about sea ice and its role in climate

All About the Cryosphere
Information on various aspects of the cryosphere - i.e., the snow and ice covered regions of the earth

Visualizing Polar Change: Data and Tools to Understand an Arctic Climate in Transformation (PowerPoint 6.2MB Feb25 08)
A presentation from the 2008 workshop on Teaching with New Geoscience Tools. The Arctic is undergoing a rapid change, which will have dramatic implications for the Arctic climate and beyond. NSIDC has numerous datasets and visualization tools that can be used to track and understand this change and its implications. This presentation focused on Arctic sea ice, the most dramatic climate change indicator.

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