PhD position “Employing data science for mapping sea ice surface change on decadal time scales”

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The Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) is a member of the Helmholtz Association (HGF) and funded by federal and state government. AWI focuses on polar and marine research in a variety of disciplines such as biology, oceanography, geology, geochemistry and geophysics thus allowing multidisciplinary approaches to scientific goals.


The sea-ice domain is already in transition due to its vulnerability to climate forcing, and significant changes have been documented in the Arctic over the past few decades. An accurate assessment of the full scale of this transition depends on robust observational data records, especially of the past.

The goal of the organisation is to develop methods for using satellite radar altimeter data to quantify global changes in sea-ice surface properties since the early 1990s. The intended outcome is an improved climatological data record of sea-ice mass with novel observational reference to sea-ice dynamics and summer melt processes. The project, which goes by the acronym POTENTIAL, is a joint project of the Alfred Wegener Institute, the University of Bremen, and the German Aerospace Center (DLR). The work will benefit from a robust network of related European projects.


  • Evaluate and select suitable methods for extracting sea-ice surface information from satellite radar altimeter sensor data (radar waveforms). These methods will be based either on machine learning techniques or other suitable data science methods (to be evaluated during the project)
  • Sensitivity studies with existing satellite sensor simulators
  • Development of analysis and information extraction tools for satellite radar altimeter waveform data from sea-ice surfaces
  • Generation of sea-ice surface property data sets (surface roughness, melt pond coverage) for thirty years of satellite radar altimeter data