In search of large ice floes

September 11, 2012

Julienne Stroeve, right, supervises Sara Ayech in drilling on a large ice floe in the Arctic Ocean. (Photo by Daniel Beltra / Greenpeace)

The last two days were spent searching for floes larger than 100 meters. However, since we reached the ice edge we have not found any large floes. Most have been around 20 to 50 meters in size. Today I set foot on a larger floe that was 65 by 55 meters. This floe was likely second-year ice, with a mean thickness around 2 meters. It had five frozen melt ponds. On top of the floe was a granular surface of 1- to 2-centimeter grain size ranging between 8- to 16- centimeter deep. I drilled through the largest frozen melt pond (though not entirely frozen as water came up when I drilled through the top layer), that had a total ice thickness of 165 centimeters.

According to the satellite data, we should have already reached nearly 100 percent ice concentration, yet at 83N, the ice concentration remains less than 40 percent. It could be that the heavy fog has resulted in an overestimation of the ice concentration from the passive microwave satellite observation.

As the temperatures have dropped further in the day (below -5 degrees Celsius), frazil and grease ice have increased the total ice concentration to 80 percent. Helicopter reconnaissance shows no large ice floes within at least one day of sailing.

Several polar bears were sighted today, including a mother and her two-year-old cub. Amazing to watch them from the ship. So curious!

Just heard that a storm is on its way. Appears to be some light snow now. Our plan is to start heading west in hopes of reaching some larger ice floes.



  1. Hi from Resolute Nunavut Julienne…

    Look for -11 C effects as I do here… Good luck with further discoveries. Satellites are good for overall pictures , humans on site are still awesomely better!

  2. Looking forward to some great posts!

  3. This is a very nice blog-congratulations. I was intrigued by your comment here;

    “According to the satellite data, we should have already reached nearly 100 percent ice concentration, yet at 83N, the ice concentration remains less than 40 percent.”

    It closely matches two similar reports of lack of ice at the arctic. This from my article;

    “Intriguingly “Mr. Scoresby, a very intelligent young man” had a renowned father. Whilst Scoresby (senior) like his fellow Whitby neighbour James Cook did not gain this £20,000 reward either, he did reach beyond 81 degrees in 1806, breaking through the ice at Spitzbergen only 510 miles from the North Pole. This achievement was not bettered for 21 years, and then only by travelling for some of the way over the ice, not on board a ship.

    Sir Joseph Banks would have been aware of the (periodic) warming before 1817. Whalers commented on it from 1790 and reports from the Hudson Bay co mentioned variable amounts of ice throughout the period from 1786 to 1810. Banks had been particularly interested in reports about ‘unprecedented break up of sea ice at Greenland’ in 1815.”


    This from 1922;

    “The Arctic Ocean is warming up, icebergs are growing scarcer and in some places the seals are finding the water too hot, according to a report to the Commerce Department yesterday from Consul Ifft, at Bergen, Norway.

    Reports from fishermen, seal hunters and explorers, he declared, all point to a radical change in climate conditions and hitherto unheard-of temperatures in the Arctic zone. Exploration expeditions report that scarcely any ice has been met with as far north as 81 degrees 29 minutes. Soundings to a depth of 3,100 meters showed the gulf stream still very warm.

    Great masses of ice have been replaced by moraines of earth and stones, the report continued, while at many points well known glaciers have entirely disappeared. Very few seals and no white fish are found in the eastern Arctic, while vast shoals of herring and smelts, which have never before ventured so far north, are being encountered in the old seal fishing grounds.

    Note; The source report of the Washington Post article on changes in the arctic has been found in the Monthly Weather Review for November 1922”

    Difficult to compare like for like, as your 40% of ice may or may not be the same as ‘scarcely any ice.’ I do wonder how far some of these historic expeditions may have reached if they could have had sat-nav!

    Good luck with your blog and your Arctic research

  4. […] In reality there may be even less ice than satellite measurements show: in a location at 83°N where the satellites show 100% ice cover, field researchers found only 40% ice cover. […]

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