LiDAR ice survey

By Julie Parno

We are about a quarter of the way into our cruise. It being my first, I feel like I am settling in to boat life well. As with any field work, flexibility is key and Mother Nature has the final say. The last couple of days the winds have been too high to get much work done outside so we have had the time to process samples and data, troubleshoot issues with instruments, and catch up on everything from email to laundry.

On our way to Terra Nova Bay, with clearer skies and less wind, we were able to get in two successful ice stations. I have been part of the collective effort to complete the ice physics station. At each station, we use a variety of techniques to map both the surface and underside of the sea ice with the goal of fully characterizing the ice. One of the main campaigns I am assisting with is a LiDAR survey, which provides us with the surface elevation over a 2D grid. For this, I got to step out onto sea ice for the first time and loved it. With the sun just hugging the horizon this time of year, the shadows and colors are stunning, highlighting the texture of the ice surface. Oh, and the bunny boots keeping my feet nice and warm make all the difference.parno_1


The LiDAR survey starts by measuring out a 100 m x 100 m square and setting up 6 highly reflective targets that the LiDAR can easily pick up. We then do 4 scans, one from each corner of the square. Tying all of these scans together, based on our reflective targets, helps to fill in any gaps or holes in the data that occur from “shadowing”, similar to regular shadows we see from the late afternoon sun.


Additional measurements at the physics station are done along a transect, including snow depth, ice thickness, and ice core sampling. To cap it all off, an under ice survey is done with an autonomous underwater vehicle. All of this information will ultimately help relate airborne measurements to actual conditions on the ground, improving modeling and forecasting capabilities.

I feel very lucky to be a part of this immense multi-project effort to better understand sea ice production in this area. Now let’s just hope that the weather cooperates soon so we can get back out on the ice!

8 comments for “LiDAR ice survey

  1. Meredith O'Hara
    May 9, 2017 at 11:11

    Amazing! Keep blogging!

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