Studying: Introduction

An aerial view of the helicopter taking data of the sea ice below

An aerial view of the helicopter taking data of the sea ice below.
Credit: NSIDC Courtesy of Alice O'Connor

Sea ice is difficult to study directly because it is in such remote locations and extreme climates. Ships and submarines have been used to gather data for sea ice, and scientists have established field camps and deployed ocean buoys in the Arctic to study the movement of sea ice. The problem with these methods is that they only explain sea ice conditions in relatively small regions. Remote sensing is a tool that scientists use to gather information about objects on Earth from space. Satellite and airborne instruments collect data that show the area covered by sea ice in the Arctic and Antarctic, sea ice temperature, sea ice motion, and other variables. With remote sensing, scientists can monitor sea ice over a broad region.

To predict how sea ice will evolve in the future and to simulate sea ice processes, scientists use models, which are essentially equations in computer programs. Models complement remote sensing data and fill in gaps in knowledge about sea ice.