Network of Robotic Marginal Ice Zone Sensors Combined with Observations from Space: Office of Naval Research (ONR) Marginal Ice Zone Experiment

October 21, 2014
By Jessica Rohde

The ONR marginal ice zone field experiment was brought to a close in late September 2014 when Seagliders, Wavegliders and wave floats were recovered from the Beaufort Sea. They were just a few of the almost 100 sensors and platforms deployed between March and August to investigate atmosphere-ice-ocean-waves interactions and feedbacks as the pack ice retreated northward away from the coast of northernmost Alaska. During the 7-month intensive observation period the sensors and platforms measured air temperature; snow depth; ice thickness and ice temperature; ocean surface wave generation, propagation and scattering on the open ocean and in the ice cover; ocean salinity and temperature below the ice; heat transfer from the ocean to the underside of the ice cover; and the under-ice light field and biogeochemistry.



Craig Lee, UW/APL prepares a Seaglider for launch from the Korean research vessel Araon, August 2014. Photo source: Martin Doble.



While the robotic network of sensors quietly made its measurements, their work was supplemented by observations from space: declassified, high resolution, visible band images provided by the intelligence community, and RADARSAT-2 and TerrSAR-X synthetic aperture radar images. Many sensors remain in the ice, making valuable measurements during fall freeze-up and, should they survive that, during the coming winter.


Collaborators in the study include the National Weather Service, NASA Operation IceBridge and the Korea Polar Research Institute. The marginal ice zone project web site is hosted by the Applied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington.


This research contributes to sea ice and marine ecosystems research objectives outlined in the IARPC Arctic Research Plan, which is designed to implement research that will inform national policy and benefit significantly from interagency coordination. 


Article posted by Jessica Rohde on behalf of Martin Jeffries, ONR.

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