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Autonomous Ice Mass Balance Buoys for an Arctic Observing Network: A Continuation Proposal


Project start
Project end
Type of project
Project theme
Ocean & fiord systems
Project topic
Computer science & e-learning

Project details

Science / project summary

Changes in the extent and thickness of the Arctic Ocean’s sea ice cover are among the most pronounced indicators of our warming global temperatures. In order to improve predictions that enable us to anticipate and plan for future change in ice cover on seasonal to decadal time scales, we need to understand the processes driving the observed change. An area of particular interest is the temperature-driven mass balance of the ice cover. The mass balance is the balance between the amount of ice growth in the winter and the amount of melt in the summer. Mass balance is a key climate change indicator since it combines the impact of heating and cooling at the top and bottom of the ice. If there is net warming over time, then there will be thinning of the ice. Conversely, net cooling leads to thicker ice. The objective of this project is to contribute to the Arctic Observing Network by maintaining a network of autonomous ice mass balance (IMB) buoys, installed in the drift ice of the Arctic Ocean. The observations from these buoys enable researchers to explore what changes in sea ice thickness are taking place and how these changes occur, thereby improving this projects’ understanding of this complex and important component of the global environment. Broader Impacts include contributing to Dartmouth College’s Women in Science Program and an “adopt a buoy” program for middle school students. The primary objectives of this project are to: 1) procure and deploy a minimum of 5 IMB buoys per year, to increase network coverage, and 2) process and archive the data from these buoys to ensure that they are fully, freely, openly, and immediately accessible to all researchers and interested users. A key to achieving the first objective is an advancement in buoy technology, creating a version of the IMB that costs less to produce, is easier to deploy, and is designed for deployment in the increasingly prevalent seasonal sea ice cover. Researchers will continue to strategically deploy the IMBs in coordination with complementary atmospheric and oceanographic instruments to optimize the observations throughout the Arctic Ocean. This project will also continue to build on its strong national and international collaborations, to maximize the extent of the IMB network across the Arctic Basin and to minimize the logistic costs associated with deployment. The end result will be an integrated atmosphere-ice-ocean observing array providing a comprehensive description of the response of the ice cover to atmospheric and oceanic forcing.