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MEOPeer trains with Canadian Ice Service on Synthetic Aperture Radar

This fall, MEOPeer Becky Segal (University of Victoria, pictured at right) spent a week in Ottawa as a visiting student at the Canadian Ice Service (CIS), where she trained in charting sea ice in the Canadian Arctic. Segal was given access to over 1,200 radar images of sea ice that she will analyze as part of her MEOPAR-funded research on ice conditions and how they are changing in Pond Inlet, Nunavut.

“I was sent to Ottawa to train with the Canadian Ice Service because they are working on a project that aims to improve the sea ice information currently available to northern communities,” says Segal, who is a master’s student in the Geography Department at the University of Victoria. The CIS project is called Community Search And Rescue Ice Information Project, and Segal explains that although sea ice has been tracked on larger scales, tending to focus on shipping routes, it is a fairly novel idea to study ice conditions with a community focus and at a community scale.

Because there is the potential for increased Arctic ship traffic in the future, this work is important for helping to inform and involve affected communities. In particular, one of the questions Segal hopes to answer is whether ships breaking through ice in the region of Pond Inlet have an impact on local ice conditions.

According to Segal, it’s only recently that this type of long period analysis has been possible. “We’re just getting to the point when there is enough imagery to look back through and be able to assess trends. It’s pretty exciting. While I was in Ottawa they gave me about 1200 synthetic aperture radar images. They span 1996 until the time I was at the Canadian Ice Service, in October.” 

The image type, synthetic aperture radar images (like the one at left, taken on April 30, 2016) is also effective for Segal’s research, because she needs images taken during winter months, when there is little sunlight in the Arctic. She explains that the images “are great, because they’re relatively fine scale and they’re radar, which means that even when it’s dark – and it’s dark a lot in the Arctic – and when there’s cloud cover, they still provide you images when visible spectrum images just wouldn’t be helpful.”

The region of Pond Inlet is the first to be examined in this way, as a pilot for the CIS’s project. Segal explains that her part will be a success if she can create a standard method for examining ice at Pond Inlet that can then be used to investigate sea ice conditions in other Canadian communities.

Segal’s work is part of MEOPAR’s Safer Shipping through Summer Sea Ice project led by Dr. Randy Scharien at the University of Victoria. As a MEOPeer, she was funded by MEOPAR’s training program for her training with the CIS. “It was a full, in-depth and integrated experience where I was in the location where the work was happening. I’m incredibly grateful to MEOPAR and really happy with where I’ve been able to get so far with their help.”

Find out more about MEOPAR’s Safer Shipping through Summer Sea Ice: New Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) Based Tools for Monitoring and Predicting Sea Ice Conditions project here. This project is one of nine research projects funded through MEOPAR's partnership with Irving Shipbuilding Inc. Read More