Near-Real Time Detection of the Re-Opening of the Weddell Polynya, Antarctica, from Spaceborne Infrared Imagery
Paper in proceedings, 2018
A hole in the Antarctic sea ice cover, the Weddell Polynya, unexpectedly re-opened in winter 2017 for the first time since 1976. Models suggest that the polynya opened because warm oceanic water moved up to the surface, melting the ice from below. Here three temperature thresholds applied to near-hourly spaceborne infrared imagery (AVHRR) successfully detect the appearance of a warm spot up to five days before the polynya opened in June and September 2017. Traditional sea ice concentration and thickness criteria could only detect the polynya once it was open. An automatised warning system, using near-real time passive monitoring of warm spots, would allow researchers to reroute vessels or autonomous sensors in order to finally study the polynya as a whole when it opens again, from its preconditioning to its impacts on the climate system.