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Altimeter Ice Detection (AID)

C-CORE's ice detection and ice environment characterization services are kept on the leading edge by continuous research into new methods of analysis and interpretation of satellite imagery, both current and historical, as well as research on the capabilities of new sensors.  

To address the needs of operatons in frontier regions, which by definition lack detailed environmental characterization information, C-CORE worked with its LOOKNorth R&D team to develop a new tool - AID, or Altimeter Ice Detection - that expands the information sets available and decreases environmental risk without substantially increasing cost. AID uses freely available (and plentiful) satellite altimeter data. The Jason-2 and Cryosat instruments produce a continuous stream of altimeter data typically used to model ocean circulation and to monitor sea level changes over time; it is optimized for large-scale, large-area monitoring.

(ABOVE RIGHT: ILLUSTRATION OF ALTIMETER SATELLITE JASON-2; COURTESY OF NASA/JPL-CALTEC)

Thus, AID offers the ability to surveil large areas quickly and inexpensively, identifying target areas that can be further investigated using Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), which is higher-resolution but more costly. In effect, AID offers a tool to focus acquisition of SAR imagery.

AID’s first real-world application was providing iceberg surveillance to the racing yacht Maxi Banque Populaire V during its record-breaking circumnavigation of the globe in the Southern Ocean, December 2011 to March 2012.  Some 8,000 icebergs were detected. Using a combination of AID (80%) and SAR (20%), C-CORE provided effective iceberg mapping at considerably reduced costs.

More recently, C-CORE has enhanced AID capabilities to include analysis of the long-term altimeter data record from the Jason 1 & 2 and Poseidon satellites.  In characterizing the ice regime in an area of the South Atlantic Ocean (approximately 51°S latitude, approaching the Antarctic) newly under consideration for hydrocarbon development, AID analysis yielded many detections, from which C-CORE produced an initial 20-year time series of ice populations within the region.

(Above left: Small iceberg off the Falkland Islands; image courtesy of M. Colllins)

Work is ongoing to improve ship/iceberg discrimination in AID and to compare AID detections against C-CORE’s extensive in-house historical SAR datasets. The aim is to reliably extrapolate iceberg population within an area of interest from an AID point detection.