Sea-ice Environmental Research Facility (SERF)

Submitted by: Randall Scharien
Location or Study Area: University of Manitoba



The Sea-ice Environmental Research Facility (SERF) is the first experimental sea-ice facility in Canada. Located on the campus of the University of Manitoba, the main feature of SERF is an outdoor seawater pool, equipped with a movable roof to control snow cover and ice growth, and various sensors and instruments to allow real-time monitoring. By fabricating and growing sea ice under various controlled conditions, mesocosm-scale studies will be carried out at SERF to enhance our fundamental understanding of how sea ice forms and melts on polar oceans, and to gain insight into the processes that regulate the exchange of energy and matter between the ocean and atmosphere.

Project Description

The winter 2013/2014 season is year 3 of SERF. Data collection will focus on regularly scheduled measurements linking the geophysical and electromagnetic (EM) properties of sea ice as it progresses through distinct growth and ablation phases. Measurements of sea ice biogeochemical properties will also be acquired. Three experiments are planned: 

  • Exp. 3.1 (ice ridge) - Dec. 03 – 31, 2013: Growth of thick ice and simulated ice ridge radar remote sensing sub-project.
  • Exp. 3.2 (geophysics and biogeochemistry) - Jan. 10 - 31: Time series geophysical and biogeochemical data collection.
  • Exp. 3.3: (geophysics) – Feb. 01 to end: Replicate of Exp. 3.2 geophysical data collection under different seasonal forcing conditions.

Geophysical and EM data will be used for understanding the key processes which affect the visible, near-infrared, and microwave signals recorded by satellite remote sensing systems. Information will be used to improve the accuracy of satellite based measurements of sea ice properties, and contribute new retrieval methods for parameters such as snow water equivalent (SWE). Biogeochemical information will address ongoing SERF goals of understanding the role of sea ice in polar marine biogeochemical cycling.   

Relevant Publications

Geilfus N.-X., R. Galley, A. Hare, F. Wang, D. Søgaard, S. Rysgaard. 2013. “Ikaite and gypsum crystals observed in experimental and natural sea ice.” Geophysical Research Letters. 40, 1-6, doi:10.1002/2013GL058479.

Hare, A.A., F. Wang, D. Barber, N.-X. Geilfus, R.J. Galley, and S. Rysgaard. 2013. “pH Evolution in Sea Ice Grown at an Outdoor Experimental Facility.” Marine Chemistry 154 (August 20): 46–54. doi:10.1016/j.marchem.2013.04.007.

Isleifson, Dustin, Ryan James Galley, David G. Barber, Jack C. Landy, Alexander S. Komarov, and Lotfollah Shafai. 2013. “A Study on the C-Band Polarimetric Scattering and Physical Characteristics of Frost Flowers on Experimental Sea Ice.” IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing: 1–1. doi:10.1109/TGRS.2013.2255060.


Principal Investigators (CEOS): David Barber, Feiyue Wang

Program Lead: Randall Scharien

For more information contact:

UM Participants: David Barber, Fei Wang, Randall Scharien, David Mosscrop,Alex Komarov, Ph.D. Student, Nariman Firoozy, Ph.D. Student, Jack Landy, Ph.D. Student, Megan Shields, M.Sc. Student, Wen Xu, M.Sc. Student,

University of Calgary: John Yackel; Mallik Mahmud

Initial ice growth with movable roof on.
Credit: Fei Wang.


Frost flowers. Credit: Fei Wang.


Simulated ice ridge experiment and EM instrumentation. Credit: Megan Shields.