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Measurement, Knowledge, and Representation of Arctic Sea Ice

Authors: Laura Seddon*, Department of Geography, Durham University, Philip Steinberg, Department of Geography, Durham University
Topics: Polar Regions, Remote Sensing, Social Geography
Keywords: Sea ice, knowledge production, representation, remote sensing, maps, critical cartography, STS
Session Type: Poster
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Satellite-derived sea-ice products and datasets are instrumental tools in the reporting of Arctic sea-ice conditions. Through numerical and visual representations, these products have contributed significantly to our understanding of Arctic sea-ice characteristics and variability, knowledge of which is critical for a wide range of applications including operational forecasting and climate research, as well as framing the region within broader political and socio-economic contexts. However, the complex and dynamic nature of sea ice is difficult to measure and this requires the application of a number of assumptions and simplifications in data acquisition, processing, and classification. Moreover, different sets of assumptions and simplifications can result in different representations of sea-ice conditions. These differences raise important questions over the nature of the underlying decisions, assumptions, and conventions that inform the production of knowledge about complex and changing environments, as well as about the linked ways in which both science and policy (and the institutions that join them) apply binary classifications to rationalise and ‘fix’ a dynamic and indeterminate environment. To explore these issues further, we draw upon ideas from science and technology studies and critical cartography to analyse and compare the scientific practices used in the processing and reporting of Arctic sea-ice conditions. The research involves an examination of sea-ice data products, as well as the institutional contexts in which they are constructed. The research aim is to provide a greater understanding of how the dominant practices, technologies, and discourses of science are embedded in the social practices of knowledge production and communication.

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