Antarctic Sea-ice Processes and Climate (ASPeCt) Expert Group

Terms of Reference

Overview of ASPeCt

ASPeCt is an expert group on multi-disciplinary Antarctic sea ice zone research within the SCAR Physical Sciences program. ASPeCt has the key objective of improving our understanding of the Antarctic sea ice zone and its response to climate change. This understanding is to be achieved through focussed field programs, systematic monitoring of the ice cover, analysis of remote sensing and numerical modelling. The program complements and contributes to other international science programs in Antarctica such as the Southern Ocean Observing System (SOOS) and SCAR Horizon. ASPeCt will also foster international collaborations in existing and proposed research programs within national Antarctic programs. ASPeCt has included a component of data rescue of valuable historical sea ice zone information that has before resided only within national programmes and placed it in data archives that are internationally accessible. ASPeCt also continues to compile and archive data from previous and ongoing sea ice projects on for example, sea ice biology and sea ice biogeochemistry from ice cores and will be undertaking new projects to reference or compile other sea ice data sets that are less accessible now.

The overall aim of ASPeCt is to understand and model the role of Antarctic sea ice in the coupled atmosphere-ice-ocean system in order to predict its future behavior and possible feedbacks into the global climate system. This requires an understanding of key processes, and the determination of physical, chemical, and biological properties of the sea ice zone. These are addressed by objectives which are:

  1. To establish the distribution of the basic physical properties of sea ice that are important to air-sea interaction and to biological processes within the Antarctic sea-ice zone (ice and snow cover thickness distributions; structural, chemical and thermal properties of the snow and ice; upper ocean hydrography; floe size and lead distribution). These data are required to derive forcing and validation fields for climate models and to determine factors controlling the biology and ecology of the sea ice-associated biota.

  2. To understand the key sea-ice zone processes necessary for improved parameterisation of these processes in coupled models specifically the behavior of coastal polynyas, interaction of the marginal ice zones in with the open ocean, snow ice formation and surface flooding. 

ASPeCt’s Terms of Reference

Provide standardization of ice observing protocols, and core and ice station sampling. Provide data archive for ship observations, ice thickness profiles, ice core properties, aerial photos

Provide metadata directory to experiment data sets, buoy data Sponsor workshops and conference sessions on topics of interest Coordinate international collaboration on experiments Facilitate data exchanges and joint analyses

Collaborate with other groups (e.g AntClim21, SORP ) where such collaboration draws upon the expertise within ASPeCt

Coordinate exchanges of data and ideas between observers and climate modellers with the aim of improving climate model simulations.

Provide expertise and consultation to SCAR, CliC, and WCRP on Antarctic sea ice 


Snow and Sea Ice Climatology (Ship Obs)

Snow and Ice Properties (Cores, Thickness, Sampling)

Time Series of Sea Ice Processes (Drifting Stations and Ice Mass Balance Buoys) Coastal Polynya Process Experiments

Ice Edge Process Experiments

Validation of Remote Sensing for application in Sea Ice Modeling Coordination of sea ice observations from coastal stations (AFIN-Antarctic Fast Ice Network) 

Key Questions that ASPeCt addresses:

How is Antarctic sea ice responding to global change? Why is Antarctic sea ice extent increasing?

How important is the sea ice for the ecosystem?

What is the role of the sea ice pump for CO2 exchange between ocean and atmosphere? How is sea ice thickness changing?

What is the role of snow processes?

How can we distinguish climate trends from inter-annual variability? What variables control the predictability of sea ice?


ASPeCt Metadata in the Global Change Master Directory

Development of ice cameras to be used automatically on ships of opportunity Organize sessions at SCAR Open Science Conferences and other meetings Coordination with SOOS, IICWG (Intl. Ice chart working group)

Planning to develop data archives for AUV under ice data, aerial photography, airborne lidar, (from manned and unmanned aircraft)

ASPeCt organizational structure

ASPeCt has a leadership structure consisting of a Vice-Chair, Chair, Immediate past Chair, Early Career Scientist (ECS). The Vice- Chair serves for at least two years. The Chair serves for at least four years. The Immediate Past Chair Serves for at least two years. Each post is renewable/extendable in two-year increments. The Vice-Chair does not automatically become Chair and there is the opportunity for the leadership to be renewed every two years.

Two other positions within the leadership structure consist of an appointed ASPeCt Representative on SOOS (if appointed by SOOS then on their the SSG or ex-officio if not on the SSG) and an appointed Communication and Data Executive (typically at the AAD where the ASPeCt database, website, etc are currently housed).

Download the full Science and Implementation Plan