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Determining the floe-size distribution of East Antarctic sea ice from digital aerial photographs

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Floe size within the Antarctic pack ice is an important parameter that affects both the ocean–ice–atmosphere energy exchange and the mechanical properties of pack ice. In this paper we present a computer-based algorithm to extract floe-size distribution information from digital aerial photographs of Antarctic sea ice. The algorithm segments digital images of sea ice into distinct floes from which the size of each floe is calculated and floe-size distributions are derived. Through a recursive application of the morphological erosion operator, each floe is eroded towards its centre while each pixel's erosion number is recorded. This ensures no information is lost while individual floes are identified. The algorithm combines image-processing techniques with some manual input to accurately identify the boundaries of individual floes within an image. To demonstrate the functionality of the algorithm, six images, representing regions along a 22 km south-to-north transect through a transitional zone of pack ice near 65° S, 140° E, have been processed. Regional variations in the floe-size distributions show an increase in the number of smaller floes relative to larger floes and a decrease in the dominant floe size (in terms of areal coverage) from south to north. These results are consistent with ship-based observations.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2001

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  • The Annals of Glaciology is a peer-reviewed, thematic journal published 2 to 4 times a year by the International Glaciological Society (IGS). Publication frequency is determined and volume/issue numbers assigned by the IGS Council on a year-to-year basis and with a lead time of 3 to 4 years. The Annals of Glaciology is included in the ISI Science Citation Index from volume 50, number 50 onwards.

    Themes can be on any aspect of the study of snow and ice. Individual members can make a suggestion for a theme for an Annals issue to the Secretary General, who will forward it to the IGS Publications Committee. The IGS Publication Committee will make a recommendation for an individual themed Annals issue, together with a potential Annals Chief Editor for that issue, to IGS Council. The IGS Council will make the decision whether to proceed, taking into account the spread of topics and the overall capacity for publication of pages in Annals.

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