Delivering Added-value To Antarctica

December 1, 2017
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The Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition (ACE) is a unique scientific expedition that took place from 20 December 2016 to 19 March 2017. Organised by the Swiss Polar Institute (SPI) and funded mostly through private philanthropy, ACE brought together more than 150 scientists from 23 countries collaborating on 22 projects on a research vessel that sailed all around Antarctica, conducting continuous measurements of physical, biological and chemical properties of the ocean and atmosphere, throughout the Southern Ocean and at 12 groups of islands for terrestrial sampling along the way.

The voyage finally collected data from over 3600 events at 96 stations. With more than 27500 samples collected and still awaiting analysis there is a great deal of further data to add to the existing files for many of the projects. Moreover, several projects continuously recorded oceanographic and atmospheric variables with time resolutions of well below one hour, providing an unprecedented temporal and spatial coverage of the region.

Given that the data sets of these 22 projects have been managed in a common way and their metadata entered into a common system during the expedition, and given the extreme rarity of such extensive data sets, it is important to answer some of the more holistic questions by developing the interlinkages.

In order to valorise this unique set of data, the ACE-DATA project therefore aims at establishing a common data platform as a tool for the 22 ACE projects to work on and from and enable collaborations as well as open access. Furthermore, data sciences offer an unprecedented opportunity to break down the walls of science silos and “make new science” beyond the original planned individual project results, by discovering interdependencies among measurements which were acquired independently and possibly representing processes never paired until now.



SDSC Team:
Eric Bouillet
Michele Volpi

PI | Partners:

EPFL, Swiss Polar Institute:

  • Prof. Philippe Gillet
  • Jenny Thomas
  • Danièle Rod

More info

PSI, Aerosol Physics Group, Laboratory for Atmospheric Chemistry:

  • Prof. Julia Schmale
  • Dr. Sebastian Landwehr

More info

British Antarctic Survey:

  • Prof. David Walton

More info



A unique opportunity to collect data at the same time and location across wide-ranging scientific disciplines. It is however an open question how to group a wide variety of heterogeneous measurements in the form of time series with different temporal and spatial resolutions. In the Data Science part of the ACE-DATA project, we aim at finding ways to discover correlations and dependencies across variables, which can then be object of domain science specific studies to validate or reject discovered relationships. We plan on first to harmonise and homogeneise the data, which is then input into a model relating and grouping variables. We aim at doing this accounting for the large group of scientist and disciplines involved in ACE, and by leveraging the different expertises.

Figure 1: ACE Ship track and main geographical features of the expedition.


After a careful sensor and domain specific harmonisation (raw and process data published at Search Swiss Polar Institute: Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition (ACE)) we paired measurements into a large, multiresolution dataset. We use an extension of a sparse Principal Component Analysis to decompose the data matrix into components, which summarise into group common directions of variance. This results in a clustering of variables which has been validated and discussed by ACE scientists, and a paper published at Exploring the coupled ocean and atmosphere system with a data science approach applied to observations from the Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition. A limitation of the study which is worth investigating, is the nonlinear time-lag effects across variables, which can affect more or less some of these discovered dependencies.

Figure 2: A latent variable activation (LV1) from a sparse PCA decomposition (see Landwehr et al, 2021) superimposed with the ship track. (a) time series of activations over the ACE cruis (b) geographical illustration of the activation of LV1 and (c) important parameters as detected by the bootstrapped sparse PCA composing LV1. See paper for details.


This project allowed a first, unprecedented use of paired cruise data to disentangle the data relationships, as coming directly from sensors mounted on a boat. This study not only provides a possible novel methodological insight into discovery into heterogeneous datasets, but also provides comprehensive, domain science driven description of the many complex processes occurring on the Southern Ocean, therefore providing a useful guide for further data acquisition and studies.




  • Landwehr, S., Volpi, M., Haumann, F. A., Robinson, C. M., Thurnherr, I., Ferracci, V., Baccarini, A., Thomas, J., Gorodetskaya, I., Tatzelt, C., Henning, S., Modini, R. L., Forrer, H. J., Lin, Y., Cassar, N., Simó, R., Hassler, C., Moallemi, A., Fawcett, S. E., Harris, N., Airs, R., Derkani, M. H., Alberello, A., Toffoli, A., Chen, G., Rodríguez-Ros, P., Zamanillo, M., Cortés-Greus, P., Xue, L., Bolas, C. G., Leonard, K. C., Perez-Cruz, F., Walton, D., and Schmale, J.: Exploring the coupled ocean and atmosphere system with a data science approach applied to observations from the Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition, Earth Syst. Dynam., 12, 1295–1369, Exploring the coupled ocean and atmosphere system with a data science approach applied to observations from the Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition , 2021.
  • S. Landwehr, M. Volpi, M. H. Derkani, F. Nelli, A. Alberello, A. Toffoli, M. Gysel-Beer, R. L. Modini, J. Schmale. (2020) Sea State and Boundary Layer Stability Limit Sea Spray Aerosol Lifetime over the Southern Ocean. Submitted to Geophysical Research Letters.  
  • Landwehr, S., Thurnherr, I., Cassar, N., Gysel-Beer, M., & Schmale, J. (2019, October). Using global reanalysis data to quantify and correct airflow distortion bias in shipborne wind speed measurements. Atmospheric Measurement Techniques Discussions. doi:
  • Julia Schmale, Andrea Baccarini, Iris Thurnherr, Silvia Henning, Avichay Efraim, Leighton Regayre, Conor Bolas, Markus Hartmann, André Welti, Katrianne Lehtipalo, Franziska Aemisegger, Christian Tatzelt, Sebastian Landwehr, Robin L. Modini, Fiona Tummon, Jill Johnson, Neil Harris, Martin Schnaiter, Alessandro Toffoli, Marzieh Derkani, Nicolas Bukowiecki, Frank Stratmann, Josef Dommen, Urs Baltensperger, Heini Wernli, Daniel Rosenfeld, Martin Gysel-Beer, and Ken Carslaw (2019, July): Overview of the Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition: Study of Preindustrial-like Aerosols and Their Climate Effects (ACE-SPACE). Bull. Amer. Meteror. Soc., Early Online Release,
  • Landwehr, S., J. Schmale, and D. W. H. Walton (2019, March), Connecting the Southern Ocean with clouds, Eos, 100,

Conferences, communications and workshops

  • Jen Thomas, Marco Alba, Eric Bouillet, Antonio Novellino, Carles Pina Estany, Michele Volpi. (2021) How to stop re-inventing the wheel: a data management case study, International Conference on Marine Data and Information Systems, online. (keynote)
  • Landwehr, S., Modini, R., Schmale, J., Volpi, M., Toffoli, A., Thurnherr, I., Aemisegger, F., Wernli, H.; (2019) Investigation of sea spray source functions with remote ocean aerosol size spectra measurements from the Antarctic Circumnavigation Experiment, SOLAS open science conference.


Data and software



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