Polar Opposites

    The Challenge

    Design a data analysis and/or visualization tool to show the spatial and temporal changes in Arctic and Antarctic ice to a general audience.


    The Arctic and Antarctica are polar opposites, not just because they house the North and South Poles, respectively, but also because their geographies are opposite as well! The Arctic is a semi-closed ocean almost entirely surrounded by land, while Antarctica is a landmass that is entirely surrounded by an ocean.

    Data about ice at the poles aren’t just useful to scientists who study the cryosphere, but they are also useful for international trade (sea ice forecasts for the Northwest Passage), and planetary science (comparing changing ice on Earth to that on other planets).

    NASA studies help us understand how ice structures in the Arctic and Antarctica are evolving in a changing environment. In addition to presence and absence of sea ice, ice sheets are also observed in three dimensions, so that measurements of how the sheets are changing from above and below, as well as side-to-side, can be made.

    Analyze and visualize NASA’s Arctic and/or Antarctic ice sheets and sea ice data to tell their story over time and over the three spatial dimensions. In addition to seasonal changes in the extent of the ice, are there other patterns of change to be seen? For example, are there differences in ice coverage in the same location between one day of the year (e.g. April 29, 2017) and the same day of other years (April 29, 2016; April 29, 2015; and so on…)?

    Potential Considerations

    Consider comparing changes in ice sheets and sea ice over time and space with atmospheric and ocean conditions in the two regions.

    Examples of Resources

    *NASA in no way endorses any particular entity listed, nor can it attest to the accuracy of information provided on non-US Government sites.

    • NASA repository for polar data and other information about polar science at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) Distributed Active Archive Center - https://earthdata.nasa.gov/about/daacs/daac-nsidc
    • ArcticDEM (digital elevation model) – This is a map of the land surface elevation for (nearly) the entire Arctic, at one snapshot in time
    • IceBridge DEM – This map of the land surface elevation captures multiple points in time.
    • Land, Vegetation, and Ice Sensor (LVIS) – Measures the height of vegetation in the polar regions.
    • Gravity anomalies from AIRGrav – Measures how the gravity differs in local regions (which happens due to more or less local mass, e.g. mountains)
    • IceBridge Image Gallery

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