3.1 Conduct coordinated/integrated atmosphere-ice-ocean observations and research to understand the processes that determine the spatial and temporal variation of the thickness, extent and volume of sea ice, and their effects on atmosphere-ice-ocean interactions and feedbacks over multiple time scales (daily, weekly, seasonal, inter-annual, decadal).

Sea ice thickness, extent, and volume are key descriptors of the state of the sea ice cover and products of complex interactions and feedbacks in the coupled atmosphere-ice-ocean system. Understanding this system, including the influence of ice on the atmosphere and the ocean, requires a spectrum of coincident observations from a variety of platforms: spaceborne, airborne (manned and unmanned aircraft), surface (ice camps, research vessels, ice-based buoys), and sub-surface (submarines, unmanned underwater vehicles, under-ice profilers and floats, moorings). No single agency operates all of these platforms, nor supports all of the research necessary to understand sea ice thickness, extent and volume over a range of spatial and temporal scales. IARPC Collaborations will be a forum for coordination and integration of atmosphere-ice-ocean observations and process studies, and the data analysis and synthesis necessary to understand the state of the sea ice.

Performance elements from the Arctic research plan

  • 3.1.1 Support investigator-driven observations and process studies of the pack ice (e.g., ice thickness distribution, topography/surface roughness and strength; ice motion and deformation; snow depth distribution and melt pond characteristics; surface albedo and energy balance) and landfast ice (e.g., extent, stability, and break-up).
  • 3.1.2 Continue to support the U.S. Interagency Arctic Buoy Program (US IABP) to provide meteorological, ice, and oceanographic data for research purposes and to meet real-time operational requirements. US IABP, coordinated by the National Ice Center and the Polar Science Center, Applied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington, contributes to the International Arctic Buoy Programme.
  • 3.1.3 Continue Operation IceBridge (OIB) to measure sea ice freeboard and thickness and to measure the depth of snow on the ice in late winter 2017, 2018, and 2019 in the western Arctic Ocean.
  • 3.1.4 Launch (1) the NOAA/NASA Joint Polar Satellite System in 2017 to enhance understanding of the sea ice age/thickness, ice concentration, ice surface temperatures, snow cover, and snow water equivalent; and (2) the NASA Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite 2 (ICESat-2) in 2018 to estimate sea ice thickness over the entire Arctic Ocean and adjacent seas.
  • 3.1.5 Use multiple remote sensing data sets to: (1) investigate sea ice properties and processes and atmosphere-ice-ocean interactions; and (2) develop algorithms for automated ice edge detection and delineation of the marginal ice zone, landfast ice extent, ice classification (e.g., age/type of ice, melt ponds, floe size), and ice motion and deformation.
  • 3.1.6 Develop and deploy new technologies that enable persistent data collection on a variety of environmental variables using mobile platforms and sensors operating above, on, in, and under the Arctic sea ice cover to support a framework of observations that will improve forecasting and prediction of sea ice.
  • 3.1.7 Investigate Arctic Ocean processes, interactions and feedbacks that affect the dynamics and thermodynamics of the sea ice cover, including ocean circulation and stratification, turbulence and mixing, horizontal and vertical heat transport, and freshwater transport and storage. The ONR Stratified Ocean Dynamics of the Arctic (SODA) project (FY16-FY20) is an example of a contribution to this Performance Element.

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