Iceberg forecasting - from days to decades (ICECAST)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: School of Ocean and Earth Science


Icebergs present a hazard to shipping and marine operations, and play an active role in climate change as the great ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica decline in size. Since the 1990s, we have been developing a model to represent the drift and melting of icebergs in the polar oceans. With NERC funding, this model has recently been implemented as an interactive option in the NEMO ocean model to investigate variable Greenland iceberg calving, and most recently to track a giant iceberg that calved from Antarctica in 2013. The NEMO framework is widely used throughout Europe, and the UK Met Office adopted NEMO around 2010. The Met Office has developed seamless prediction systems that use NEMO for daily forecasts in FOAM (Forecasting Ocean Assimilation Model), for seasonal forecasts in GloSea5 (Global Seasonal Forecasting) and for climate prediction in HadGEM3 (the latest in the Hadley Centre family of climate models). We propose to work with the Met Office and one other end user (Kongsberg Satellite Services) to provide the capability for forecasting and predicting the drift of major icebergs on timescale from days to decades.


10 25 50
Description We have transferred to the UK Met Office the capability to include interactive icebergs in the ocean component of their climate and earth system models - improving predictions of climate change by taking into account the mass loss from ice sheets (Greenland and Antarctica) that appears to be underway. We have developed a framework for seasonal forecasting of iceberg risk in the North Atlantic and Southern Ocean. This framework has been used to show that the North Atlantic iceberg conditions observed in spring/summer of 2013, 2014 and 2015 could have been predicted as early as January/February, given skilful seasonal forecasts of winds, ocean currents and surface ocean temperatures.
Exploitation Route Through opportunities in a new NERC Innovation project (April 2016 - December 2017), "Safer Operations at Sea - Supported by Operational Simulations (SOS-SOS)"
Sectors Environment,Transport

Description Our NEMO-ICB model (ocean model with interactive icebergs) has been transferred to the UK Met Office, for incorporation into their climate and earth system models, to improve future projections of climate and sea level change associated with mass loss from major ice sheets (Greenland, Antarctica).
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Environment
Impact Types Policy & public services

Title SAS-ICB 
Description SAS-ICB, based on the NEMO-ICB ocean model with interactive icebergs, has been developed at the University of Southampton. SAS is for "Stand Alone Surface-forced". In SAS-ICB, icebergs are as represented in NEMO-ICB, but forced by ocean and atmospheric conditions obtained in a previous NEMO simulation (currents, temperatures, winds), rather than interactive at run-time. This means that we can efficiently explore a wide range of iceberg drift scenarios, given existing ocean and atmosphere datasets. 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact SAS-ICB provides us with a framework to develop a system for seasonal iceberg forecasting, an activity currently underway in partnership with the UK Met Office. 
Description Developing seasonal iceberg forecasting 
Organisation Meteorological Office UK
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution From NEMO-ICB, an ocean model with interactive icebergs, we have developed SAS-ICB, in which icebergs respond to surface conditions simulated in NEMO, specifically ocean currents and temperatures (SAS stands for "Stand-Alone Surface forced"). SAS-ICB has been tested with daily output from the UK Met Office Forecasting Ocean Assimilation Model (FOAM) for 2013-15. Our focus is on the northwest Atlantic, where a large number of icebergs are present in spring/summer. Compared to observed iceberg distributions, we have demonstrated a degree of skill in SAS-ICB simulations on 6-month timescales, indicating the potential for useful seasonal forecasts of North Atlantic iceberg conditions, if SAS-ICB is used with ocean conditions from the Global Seasonal Forecasting (GloSea5) system, also operated by the Met Office.
Collaborator Contribution Following discussions at the Met Office, Dr Matthew Martin provided daily surface ocean datasets from FOAM from 2013, 2014 and 2015.
Impact The SAS-ICB model system for iceberg forecasting, currently hosted at the University of Southampton. A journal paper was submitted in December 2016: Marsh, R., Bigg, G., Zhao, Y., Martin, M. J., Blundell, J. R., Josey, S. A., Hanna, E., and V. Ivchenko. Prospects for seasonal forecasting of iceberg distributions in the North Atlantic. Natural Hazards (submitted).
Start Year 2015
Description Development of interactive icebergs in climate models 
Organisation Meteorological Office UK
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Interactive icebergs have previously been included in the NEMO ocean model, known as NEMO-ICB. Further development of NEMO-ICB through the NERC Innovation project ICECAST has facilitated uptake of the ocean model in climate and earth system models used by the UK Met Office for ocean and climate prediction, taking account of changes in the mass balance of ice sheets (Greenland and Antarctica).
Collaborator Contribution Dr Dave Storkey at the UK Met Office has tested NEMO-ICB at the UK Met Office, in preparation for use in Met Office climate models, sharing output with Prof Robert Marsh.
Impact Version of NEMO model at the UK Met Met Office with interactive icebergs.
Start Year 2015