Physical and morphological properties of sea ice in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas during the 2010 and 2011 NASA ICESCAPE missions

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Physical and morphological properties of sea ice in the Chukchi and western Beaufort seas were measured during the 2010 and 2011 June-July ICESCAPE (Impacts of Climate on the Eco-Systems and Chemistry of the Arctic Pacific Environment) missions aboard the USCGC Healy. Observations of ice conditions, including ice thicknesses, types, and concentrations of primary, secondary, and tertiary categories were reported at 2-h intervals while the ship was in transit using the Antarctic Sea ice Processes and Climate (ASPeCt) protocol. On-ice surveys of ice thickness, melt-pond depth, and ice properties (including profiles of internal temperature, salinity, and isotopic composition) were conducted at 21 total ice stations (12 in 2010 and 9 in 2011). Comparison to historical ship-based observations confirms a multi-decadal transition from a multiyear to thinner, first year -dominated seasonal sea-ice pack in the region, with much earlier ice retreat than in past decades. The ice encountered was predominantly (>98%) first year, with un-deformed ice thicknesses ranging from 0.73 to 1.2. m. Pond coverage was extensive, averaging 29% in 2010 and 19% in 2011, resulting in considerable light absorption in the ice and transmission of light to the ocean. Enhanced melting near the ice edge is consistent with transport of Pacific-origin heat and/or ice-albedo feedbacks. Sediment entrainment was visible in 7.5% and 10.9% of the ice in 2010 and 2011, respectively. Overall, the results indicate a regime shift in the characteristics of the ice cover has occurred in the region over recent decades, with substantive implications for thermodynamic forcing, light availability in the upper ocean, and biological and biogeochemical processes in the ice and water column beneath. The results presented have applications for the interpretation of optical and biological measurements in the Chukchi Sea and serve as record of ice conditions for assessing long-term change.

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Deep-Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography

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