Research Group "Remote Sensing of Polar Regions"

Remote sensing from satellites is the tool of choice to collect comprehensively information about the vast areas of the Arctic and Antarctic. Within this working group we develop new methods to better observe the Earth surface and atmosphere in polar regions from space. Satellite data allows us to monitor the changes and variability of the derived geophysical quantities, like sea ice area or atmospheric water vapour, in both space and over longer time scales. As final objective, this data is used to better understand climate process in polar regions and beyond.

The working group for Remote Sensing of Polar Regions is lead by Dr. Gunnar Spreen and part of the "Remote Sensing" section lead by Prof. Justus Notholt at the Institute of Environmental Physics (IUP), University of Bremen. We have longstanding experience in deriving sea ice area, type and thickness as well as atmospheric water vapour from passive microwave radiometers like AMSR-E/2, AMSU, SMAP, and SMOS. During recent years, remote sensing of, e.g., melt ponds on sea ice, from optical sensors like MERIS, MODIS, VIIRS, and OLCI on Sentinel-3 got more attention.

Since August 2015 the cooperative junior research group "Remote Sensing of Sea Ice" is supporting and extending the research of this working group, for example on the topic of high resolution sea ice concentration retrieval. Furthermore, methods are developed to derive sea ice lead fraction from synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data in combination with altimetry, or to estimate snow depth on sea ice from passive microwave radiometers. Another research focus is sea ice dynamics: Observations of changes in ice dynamics over the last decades and deduction of sea ice topography from interferometric SAR data.

Satellite measurements of sea ice are made available via this website,, more in-depth information are published in cooperation with the Alfred-Wegener-Institute under

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