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Barrow Sea Ice Thickness and Sea Level

Barrow Sea Ice Mass Balance Site 2014

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Mass Balance Site, Jan 2014
Photo: Eric Collins

The Mass Balance Site was deployed on landfast sea ice in the Chukchi Sea at Barrow, Alaska on January 16-17, 2012. At the time, ice thickness was 0.79 m (31 in) and snow depth was 0.05 m (2 inches).

Ice thickness, snow depth, sea level, and temperature profiles are recorded every 15 minutes, transferred to Fairbanks, processed and presented online with approximately 5 minutes delay.
The probe will be recovered from the ice prior to break-up. Recovery is likely to take place in June 2014.


The Mass Balance Site consists of the following sensors:
  • in-ice thermistor string: temperatures at different positions above, through and below the ice
  • above-ice temperature/humidy sensor: air temperature and humidity
  • above-ice down-looking acoustic transducers: the position of the upper snow or ice surface
  • below-ice upward-looking acoustic transducer: the position of the ice bottom
  • below-ice down-looking acoustic transducer: local sea level at the Mass Balance Site
  • below-ice thermistor: water temperature
sketch of mass balance probe

Ice thickness is calculated from the distance between the upper and lower surfaces of the ice.
In winter the positions of the upper and lower surfaces allow us to determine snow accumulation and ice growth, respectively.
In spring and summer, our measurements show the thinning that takes place from above and below.

Measurements are performed every 15 minutes and transferred to a base station in Barrow through a 900 MHz UHF radio link, from where they are sent through an internet connection to Fairbanks for further processing.

Site location

We are currently improving our data transfer from Barrow to Fairbanks, and developing a new interactive data plotting/downloading application. Check back soon!

This project is supported through the Alaska Ocean Observing System (AOOS) with logistical and technical support provided by the Barrow Arctic Science Consortium (BASC). We also gratefully acknowledge the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation (ASRC) for supporting installation of the webcam and radar. This material is also based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. OPP-0856867. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation (NSF).