Working Group Activities related to the Third International Conference on Arctic Research Planning (ICARP III)


• Quantifying Albedo Feedbacks and Their Role in the Mass Balance of the Arctic Terrestrial Cryosphere

For more information please see the ICARP III website


The importance of Calving for the mass balance of arctic glaciers

When: 15-17 October 2016 I Where: Institute of Oceanology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Sopot (Poland)

The Centre for Polar Studies, together with the IASC Cryosphere Working Group and the IASC Network on Arctic Glaciology hosted a scientific seminar on the “Importance of Calving for the Mass Balance of Arctic Glaciers.” The workshop brought together about 25 glaciologists working on ice-mass loss at the marine termini of Arctic glaciers and ice caps. The main objective was to initiate efforts of deriving the first measure of northern hemisphere ice discharge to the ocean over the period ~2000-2015 for all glaciers and ice caps (including the periphery of Greenland, but excluding the Greenland ice sheet). Methodology and data requirements were discussed and guidelines formulated in order to derive consistent estimates for the various Arctic regions.

Rapid Arctic Transitions due to Infrastructure and Climate (RATIC) Meeting

When: 19 June 2016 I Where: Potsdam (Germany)

Announcement and Invitation for a Rapid Arctic Transitions due to Infrastructure and Climate (RATIC) Meeting prior to ICOP 2016:

An informal Rapid Arctic Transitions due to Infrastructure and Climate (RATIC) meeting prior to the 11th International Conference on Permafrost (ICOP) will take place on Sunday, 13:00 - 15:00, 19 June 2016, Telegrafenberg, A 43.14473 Potsdam, Room A43-KR.


Observing and modelling meltwater retention processes on ice sheets and glaciers  

When: 1-3 June 2016 I Where: GEUS, Copenhagen (Denmark)

Dr. Robert Fausto and Prof. Jason Box of the Glaciology and Climate department of the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS) hosted a “Workshop on observing and modelling meltwater retention processes in snow and firn on ice sheets and glaciers” with 50 registered participants. Discussion framed how to approach a problem confronting this community for 40 years.

1) present and discuss observations and modelling of meltwater retention processes in firn and snow, with emphasis on low temperature ‘polar snow/firn’
2) plan and coordinate meltwater retention model development
3) develop objectives and collaboration

Co-sponsor: Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland

Robert Fausto

Workshop Report

Scientific Highlights

We organized sessions by observations, modeling, synthesis and thus list the first three Scientific Highlights in response to the questions: what observations are we missing? lateral continuity of ice layers, unsaturated hydrological conductivity, and irreducible water content topped a list that also included grain growth. Also on this list is having geo-statistical information of retained meltwater, i.e. spacing of conduits, lenses, and layers in horizontal and vertical. Two retention regimes on the lower accumulation area of the GrIS were highlighted: blocked percolation in the West and firn aquifer in the Southeast. The transition between these two zones is still unmonitored.

• Regarding modeling, how do we parameterize vertical transport in preferential paths? An idea is to assume perfectly efficient vertical transfer allowing water to exit one layer and reappear in entirety skipping some model layers below. Another was to redistribute the meltwater from the surface to the underlying layers by using “percolation curves”. For alpine snowpack, advances have been made in modeling wetting front instability after a fine to coarse grain horizon. The preferential pathways enhanced by ice layers are still not being modeled. Simple model including meltwater availability, depth and horizontal density of the preferential pathway and refreezing rates should give a first estimate of how important the process is.

• Regarding synthesis, we resolved it important to ranking of ‘what is important’, the outcome of which suggested that with the expected future warming, accurate treatment of meltwater retention in the upper accumulation area will be fundamental. Actionable ideas how to expand much more realistically on the seminal work of Pfeffer et al. (1991) include: repeat it with modern data and methods (topography, hypsometry, firn, depth, 2 models easy runoff model 2 obstacles to runoff model). Regarding heterogeneous percolation of meltwater, it was agreed that no quantification of its extend neither of its importance for SMB processes was available. Simple model experiments (water availability vs. percolation rate vs. refreezing rate) were suggested to get an idea of the relevance heterogeneous percolation modelling in polar firn.

• The group discussed: To what accuracy do we need to know retention? We can design simple questions to address the question. Several participants agreed that Greenland ice sheet SMB calculation did not need to include microscopic modeling of percolation blocking or heterogeneities and that only the overall effect should be accounted for.

• To address the discussed question:”what constitutes a useful validation data set?”, we developed a list of Key observables and methods to accomplish the observation.

•  Accurate surface observations are needed to get the atmospheric forcing parameters and computed melt correct. Multi-year cores and temperature records that cover as much of the percolation area (~15-20m) as possible are very useful.

2nd Snow Science Winter School

When: 14–20 February 2016 I Where: Preda and Davos (Switzerland)

The 2nd Snow Science Winter School (SSWS) took place in Preda and Davos, Switzerland, from 14. - 20. February 2016 and brought together 26 students from 11 countries. Organized by the WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF and the Finish Meteorological Institute FMI, the snow school focused on modern snow measurement techniques. Traditional and modern field instruments, as measurement of specific surface area by reflection and spectroscopy, near-infrared photography and high-resolution penetrometer, were available for the students to get hands-on experience at different field site, including a high-alpine site with a snow-shoe hike. Introductory lectures and laboratory measurements complemented the experiences. The success motivated the lecturers to prepare a 3rd SSWS that will take place in Finland in 2017.

Martin Schneebeli

Workshop Report

Dynamics and Mass Budget of Arctic Glaciers

When: 25-27 January 2016 | Where: Benasque (Spain)

From 25 to 27 January 2016 the workshop on the Dynamics and Mass Budget of Arctic Glaciers including the IASC Network on Arctic Glaciology annual meeting took place in Benasque, Spain. This workshop builds on very successful meetings held in previous years in e.g. Obergurgl (Austria), Ottawa (Canada), and Zieleniec, (Poland). It provided an excellent opportunity for participants in international Arctic projects, including the Network Tidewater Glacier initiative, to discuss the results emerging from these projects and to plan future initiatives. There was a special session on glacier-ocean interactions. The workshop also hosted the annual open forum meeting of the national contacts of the NAG where Dr. Thorben Dunse was elected new Chair of the NAG, following the end of Dr. Carleen Tijm-Reijmer’s term.


C.H. Tijm-Reijmer,

Workshop Report

Scientific Highlights



Workshop at the 6th International Conference on Polar and Alpine Microbiology

When: 6 – 9 September 2015 I Where: České Budějovice (Czech Republic)

This meeting was the continuation of the highly successful meetings previously held in Rovaniemi 2004 (Finland), Innsbruck 2006 (Austria), Banff 2008 (Canada), Ljubljana 2011 (Slovenia) and Big Sky 2013 (USA). The conference brought together the scientific community for discourse on the latest in all aspects of cold-living microorganisms and their role in polar and alpine environments. The conference in České Budějovice (Czech Republic) provided an opportunity to share ideas and build research collaborations addressing the latest developments in microbiology in polar and alpine habitats.
The conference was divided into 8 sessions:
•    Polar/alpine microbiology and environmental change: past, present and future
•    Microbial diversity and evolution  
•    Cold physiology and cryobiology
•    Supraglacial, glacial and subglacial microbiology
•    Polar/alpine cyanobacteria
•    Polar/alpine eukaryotic microorganisms
•    Biotechnology in low temperatures
•    Astrobiology of icy worlds

Workshop Report

Tidewater Glacier Initiative

The CWG will continue the previously initiated study on tidewater glaciers to examine the difficulty of obtaining regional scale estimates of glacier mass balance for areas outside the ice sheets, especially during periods when there are gaps in satellite records or when available sensors change.

Ice Sheet Mass Balance and Sea Level (ISMASS)


The goals of ISMASS are to promote the research on the estimation of the mass balance of ice sheets and its contribution to sea level, to facilitate the coordination among the different international efforts focused on this field of research, to propose directions for future research in this area, to integrate the observations and modelling efforts, as well as the distribution and archiving of the corresponding data, to attract a new generation of scientists into this field of research, and to contribute to the diffusion, to society and policy makers, of the current scientific knowledge and the main achievements in this field of science.

Along these purposes, multiple workshops were hosted/co-hosted during 2014 and also in 2015:

• Workshop on ice-sheet future projections
(Auckland, 26 August 2014)

• Workshop on constraining uncertainty in Greenland surface mass balance models
(19-20 May, 2015 at the University of Sheffield, UK)

• Workshop on glacio-isotatic rebound modelling
(26-29 May, 2015, University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute, USA)

• The marine ice sheet model intercomparison project meeting
(16 August, 2015, Churchill College, UK)

 • Follow-up workshop of ice-sheet projections (Auckland), as part of the AGU Chapman Conference through the Ice Sheet Mass Balance Inter-comparison Exercise (IMBIE).

Francisco Navarro

Scientific Highlights

• It was decided that a new marine ice sheet model inter comparison project was needed to assess the impacts of dynamical ice sheet responses to ground line retreat. MISMIP (Marine Ice Sheet Model Intercomparison Project) was launched to test ice sheet models on how to cope with grounding line retreat due to basal melting under the shelf and loss of buttressing.

• There is still very significant disagreement in the amounts of snowfall and meltwater runoff simulated by the different SMB models, and so we aim to reconcile model differences through a more thorough and detailed comparison of output from the different models than has previously been undertaken. The workshop also addressed the important question of where there are gaps in information from weather stations and ice-core data which are crucial for validating SMB models over Greenland. (from Sheffield WS, 19-20 May 2015).

• The design of three MIPs were presented in the workshop: the third Marine Ice Sheet MIP (MISMIP+), the second Ice Shelf­Ocean MIP (ISOMIP+) and the first Marine Ice Sheet­Ocean MIP (MISOMIP1). The workshop unfolded in four sessions: 1. Experimental Design, 2. Logistics for Participation, 3. Remaining Design Questions (a. Which basal friction law should be used in MISMIP+?, b. How should dynamic calving be handled (if at all) in eachMIP?, c. To what extent should MISOMIP1 ask participants to submit results in a common configuration?), 4. Future Directions presented possible next steps for each MIP. (from Churchill College WS, 16 August, 2015)

Ilulissat Climate Days Workshop

When: 02 - 05 June 2015 I Where: Ilulissat, Denmark

Cryosphere changes in Greenland and the Arctic are spectacular manifestations of global climate change, and have made Greenland quite a “hotbed” for international science in recent years. The “Ilulissat Climate Days” was aimed to give a status of current changes in the Greenland cryosphere (ice sheet, icecaps, glaciers, and sea ice changes), especially in order to report and discuss the rapid changes of the last few years, as seen from a variety of in-situ, airborne and remote sensing data, as well as understanding the processes of the rapid changes. The meeting was also intended to provide an opportunity for local and regional stakeholders to get updated information on the current changes, and many representatives of the Greenland parliament and government bodies, as well as local people from Ilulissat, participated at various stages of the conference.
The Ilulissat Climate Days was a follow up the highly successful Nuuk Climate Days 2009, and at the same time served as the final conference of SVALI (Stability and Variations of Arctic Land Ice), a Nordic Council of Ministers Center of Excellence research project, focussing on changes and glaciological processes across all Nordic ice caps (Scandinavia, Svalbard, Iceland as well as Greenland). Several stakeholders and media people from the Nordic countries participated in this activity as well.
Overall a total of 179 participants was registered for the Ilulissat Climate Days, with a good mix of young scientists (Ph.D. students and postdocs), experienced researchers, stakeholders and politicians, including several officials from the European Space Agency as well. 


René Forsberg

Scientific Highlights

• The workshop consists of sessions on “Cryosphere changes: Observations and Impact on Society”, “Climate Change and Society”, “Greenland, Arctic and Antarctic Ice Cap Changes”, “Space Measurement of Cryosphere Changes”, “Observations and Models”, as well as the special conference “Stability and Variations of Arctic Land Ice”.

• The main message from the presentations was that the Greenland and Arctic ice sheet changes are increasing, with melt regions moving further north, and sea ice is thinning with shorter ice-covered periods along the Greenland coasts. Process understanding of the changes are linked to meteorology, glacier hydrology, snow melt and albedo is improving, but the pace of future changes is still highly dependent on changes in future climate and the associated dynamic effects, and it is crucial to monitor current changes closely to have faith in models of future melt.

IASC Network on Arctic glaciology annual meeting & Workshop on the Dynamics and Mass budget of Arctic glaciers

When: 23 - 25 March 2015 I Where: Obergurgl, Austria

From 23 to 25 March 2015 the workshop on the Dynamics and Mass budget of Arctic glaciers & the IASC Network on Arctic glaciology annual meeting took place at the University Centre Obergurgl, Austria. The objective of this meeting was:

  • to present and discuss new results on observations and modelling of the dynamics and mass budget of Arctic glaciers,
  • to plan and coordinate field work on Arctic glaciers with the aim of using the available infrastructure and logistics in the most efficient way
  • to develop ideas for future projects and collaboration.

NAG Workshop Report

1st European Snow Science Winter School 2015

When: 08 - 14 February 2015 I Where: Sodankylä, Finland

Snow is a key component of the cryosphere. Snow grain size (microstructure) of snow is relevant to most physical properties of the snowpack, as albedo, radiative transfer of microwaves, thermal conductivity, trafficability, air permeability. Responding to the recommendation by a recent workshop (Snow Grain Size Intercomparison Workshop 2014), underlined the need to teach modern techniques of snow microstructure characterization to a wider community, especially to graduate and post-graduate scientist. An improved quantification of snow properties is highly relevant to understand the changing arctic snowpack.
In this workshop we will teach the state-of-the-art snow measurement techniques, both direct and indirect methods that were developed and are being used by different groups. The focus of this workshop lies on field measurements, combined with theoretical lessons in the classroom. Field measurements will be done in small groups of 3-4 students. Each group of students will have to prepare a report describing the methods, results and interpretation. The course corresponds to 3 ETCS-Points.

Martin Schneebeli

Juha Lemmetyinen

Scientific Highlights

• 27 scientists, selected from 54 applications (4 Post-Docs, 19 PhD-students, 4 MSc), had participated in a training course for modern snow observation techniques.

• The topics covered are: Snow deposition, metamorphism and settling, Microstructure of snow and mathematical representation, Physical properties of snow, Optical properties of snow, Snow measurement methods: traditional and modern, Snowpack and land-surface modelling, Snow climatology and hydrology, Aspects of field safety and field organisation.

• Post-workshop responses were very positive. 2nd Snow Science Winter School will also be held in Preda and Davos, Switzerland in 14-20 February 2016.


International Workshop on Calving

When: 1-2 June 2014 I Location: LGGE, Grenoble, France

The International Workshop on Calving was organised by Martin Sharp from the University of Alberta (Canada) and Jean Krug and Olivier Gagliardini from the LGGE (University of Grenoble, France). During two days, 34 participants from 11 countries, worked around the question of calving of icebergs, from the modelling and observational point of views. The main objectives of the workshop were:

For observers - to learn whether they are observing what the modellers think needs to be observed - and if not to figure out what changes are needed. For modellers - to learn whether they are simulating what is being observed - and, if so, how successfully they are doing it. We may not be able to answer that question - but a numerical benchmarking experiment linked to both simple experiments and attempts to replicate observations could be a big step forward in establishing where we are at. The workshop consisted in 7 keynote lectures on different thematic (see program below), followed by discussions.

The website of the workshop contains a lot of available material:

Program and list of Participants

Intercomparison of Snow Grain Size Measurements Workshop

When: March 2014 I Where: Davos, Switzerland

The workshop "Intercomparison of Snow Grain Size Measurements Workshop" in Davos, Switzerland, gathered 25 snow researchers with many different methods to measure snow grain size. In two field days and two days in the cold laboratories of the WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research hundreds of snow grain size measurement could be gathered. The first step to develop protocols to establish future international standards could be reached. An evaluation workshop will follow in August 2014 in Reading before the results are published publicly.

Workshop Report


CliC Sea Ice Modeling and Observing Workshop

When: June 2013 I Where: Tromsø, Norway

The sea ice modeling and observing workshop, held in Tromsø on the 5th - 7th June 2013 brought together Arctic and Antarctic sea ice researchers to define priority research areas for the coming years. The 48 participants included specialists working on sea ice modeling, observations, remote sensing and forecasting. The workshop had the following goals:

  1. establish optimal linkages between international groups involved in sea ice modeling, observations, data assimilation, prediction and service provision;and
  2. finding avenues for future research efforts that are most productive for addressing the gaps in knowledge and weaknesses in our ability to observe sea ice, generate sea-ice data products and strengthen sea-ice modeling capabilities; and
  3. outline observational needs for sea-ice models, building on past assessments including those of the CliC Arctic Sea Ice Working Group.

Workshop Report

National Correspondents Workshop on GTN-P - Implementation and Data Policy

When: May 2013 I Where: Geneva, Switzerland

The objective of the Geneva National Correspondents Workshop was the training of the National Correspondents (NC) who were recently appointed by the countries involved in GTN-P (Global Terrestrial Network for Permafrost). This IASC-supported workshop helped them to establish a strong national participation in this program and to actively contribute to the achievement of the GTN-P goals and obligations. In total there were 50 registered attendees including 19 NC representing Austria, Canada, China, Denmark/Greenland, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, South Korea, Kyrkyz Republic, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, USA, Antarctica, Svalbard. The workshop discussed on how to partner with other international organizations and platforms of climate data collection, and how to provide products to the public.

Workshop Report


GTN-P Workshop

When: 11 - 12 November 2012 I Location: Hamburg, Germany

This workshop was a direct follow-up to the joint IASC-SCAR-IPA GTN-P workshop held in November 2011 in Potsdam, Germany, and a necessary step for the redesigning from the operation on a voluntary basis towards a more professional operation to meet the increasing expectations from the science community. The meeting served as a kick-off for the newly assigned Executive Committee of GTN-P, to initiate the next important steps to establish a completely functional governing and working body of GTN-P. Additionally the workshop aimed to: 1) develop a clear timeline of GTN-P activities and deliverables for the next two years; 2) reach a final decision on the GTN-P data structure as well as metadata format, to guarantee quick and consistent proceeding in the data management work; and 3) plan and organize a bigger workshop in spring 2013 in which also the IASC CWG and TWG should be highly involved.

Field Workshop on Studies of Tidewater Glaciers (Svalbard, Norway and the High Arctic)

When: August 26-31, 2012 I Where: Polish Research Vessel Horyzont II

Understanding of glacier calving processes are important for glacier mass balance estimates and thus for global sea level rise and for deglacierization of large areas in the Arctic. Proper use of remote sensing data and modeling of tidewater glaciers need in situ validation and continuous monitoring of tidewater glaciers. The purpose of the workshop was to train early career scientists in field and remote sensing studies of tidewater glaciers. The workshop had three major goals: (a) to present recent results from studies of Svalbard (and other) tidewater glaciers during scientific sessions; (b) to share experience, application of new techniques and obtained results directly in the field by visiting key tidewater glaciers in Spitsbergen; and (c) to discuss a potential international program of coordinated field and remote sensing observations of calving glaciers in the Arctic.

All components of the meeting were directed to young scientists. Provided training allowed them to use different field and remote sensing methods, as well as, present most recent findings. The workshop encouraged participation in research of calving glaciers for better understanding of the processes and for more precise estimation of the calving flux in mass budget calculations and thus the global sea level rise in the future. The meeting combined scientific talks and in-field training for both senior and young scientists.

The workshop was held on board of the r/v Horyzont II, chartered by the Institute of Geophysics Polish Academy of Sciences. The cruise itinerary included: Longyearbyen – Hornsund – Ny Aalesund – Kongsfjorden – Billefjorden – Longyearbyen.

For more information see:

Ice Sheet Mass Balance and Sea Level (ISMASS) Kick-off Workshop

When: 14 July 2012 I Location: Portland OR, USA

On 14 July 2012 the Ice Sheet Mass Balance and Sea Level (ISMASS) 2012 workshop was held in Portland, Oregon. This was the kick-off workshop of the renewed ISMASS expert group, under the co-sponsorship of both IASC and SCAR (formerly, it was a SCAR Expert Group). The workshop was attended by 60 people and included 7 invited presentations and 3 round tables on the main topics of the workshop, mostly focused on understanding the discrepancies among the mass balance estimates by the distinct remote sensing techniques and analyzing the improvements needed by the current ice-sheet models to better predict the ice-sheet response to climate changes. An ISMASS organization section was also held.

For more information, visit the workshop website:

Workshop Update

Multi-disciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of the Arctic Climate (MOSAiC): Planning Activities and Workshops for organizing and defining the scientific need and producing science and implementation plans

When: 27-29 June 2012 | Where: Boulder, CO, USA

This workshop followed meetings in Potsdam and Denver during the fall of 2011, and represented a key step for producing project documentation (a science plan and an implementation plan) necessary to formally propose such an observatory to science directorates and funding agencies in the participating countries. This workshop was held in Boulder, Colorado, USA, on June 27-30, 2012. A second workshop is preliminarily planned for autumn 2012 to produce the final Science Plan and a draft of the Implementation Plan.

Vulnerability of Permafrost Carbon Workshop

When: May 2012 | Location: Florida, USA

The lead/co-lead meeting of the Vulnerability of Permafrost Carbon Research Coordination Network ( took place in St. Pete Beach, Florida on May 17-18, 2012. The purpose of the meeting of the leadership was to review initial drafts of synthesis products and to identify remaining gaps for future cross-group synthesis opportunities. Short presentations by working group leads/co-leads on current progress were followed by feedback and discussion with the whole group. Remaining gaps were identified and a plan was developed to communicate these to the broader science community, both within and outside of the network, in order to inform members and to get new scientists involved in synthesis activities. Following this workshop, leads/co-leads will update working group scoping documents and initiate new synthesis activities/opportunities by engaging additional RCN members. These new opportunities will be key aspects at our next annual RCN meeting at AGU in December 2, 2012.

Workshop Report

Ice at the Interface: Atmosphere-Ice-Ocean Boundary Layer Processes and Their Role in Polar Change

When: 25-27 June 2012 | Location: Boulder, Colorado, USA

The atmosphere-ocean boundary layer in which sea ice resides includes many complex processes that require a more realistic treatment in GCMs, particularly as models move toward full earth system descriptions. The primary purpose of the workshop was to define and discuss such coupled processes from observational and modeling points of view, including insight from both the Arctic and Antarctic systems. The workshop met each of its overarching goals, including fostering collaboration among experimentalists, theorists and meodlers, proposing modeling strategies, and ascertaining data availability and needs. Several scientific themes emerged from the workshop, such as the importance of episodic or extreme event, precipitation, stratification above and below the ice, and the marginal ice zone, whose seasonal Arctic migrations now traverse more territory than in the past.

For more information, download the article:

Workshop Report


Microbial genomics of the arctic cryosphere

Lead by: Warwick Vincent and Hiroshi Kanda

Location: Dublin, Ireland

When: October 2011 In cooperation with the Terrestrial Working Group

Molecular technologies in the life sciences are transforming our view of biodiversity, biological processes, ecology and evolution. This is especially true in microbiology, where application of DNA and RNA-based approaches has shown that much of the world’s biodiversity lies within the three domains of microbial life: Eukarya, Archaea and Bacteria. This initiative from the Terrestrial WG in partnership with the Cryosphere WG, aimed to support a symposium on molecular insights into permafrost soils, thaw lakes and related extreme cold environments, at an international conference on life in extreme environments.

GTN-P Workshop

When: November 10-11, 2011 | Location: Potsdam, Germany

Workshop on Definition of Data User Requirements for Global Terrestrial Network on Permafrost (GTN-P). Co-hosted by the International Permafrost Association.

Workshop website

Workshop Program


International Glacier and Ice Cap Working Group Meeting

Where: University of Colorado, Boulder CO When: 16-19 June, 2011 Organizer: W.T. Pfeffer

The Glacier and Ice Cap (GIC) Working Group was formed for the specific purpose of improving the global inventory of glaciers and ice caps, compiling a current assessment of glacier and ice cap loss rates, improving existing loss rate projection methods, developing new projection methods, and preparing publications on these subjects, all in time for the literature deadline for the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment, on 31 July, 2012. The Winter Park, Colorado meeting was the first formal meeting of the group and was supported by the IASC Cryosphere Working Group.