Newly Declassified Submarine Data Will Help Study Of Arctic Ice

January 28, 1998

A treasure-trove of formerly classified data on the thickness of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean, gathered by U.S. Navy submarines over several decades, is now being opened. Data from the first of approximately 20 cruise tracks -- an April, 1992 trans-Arctic Ocean track -- has just been released, and information from the rest of these tracks, or maps of a submarine's route, will be analyzed and released over the next year-and-a-half.

"The data opens up a magnificent resource for global change studies," said Mike Ledbetter, National Science Foundation (NSF) program director for Arctic system science.

Climate modellers differ over the fate of the great expanse of Arctic sea ice, which is about the size of the United States. More than half the ice melts and refreezes each year.

"The Navy has collected data for decades on ice thickness in the Arctic, which was important to know for navigation and defense," said Ledbetter. "But this information is also extremely important to science, now giving us a history of sea ice that we could not collect any other way."

"The data is essential to building a baseline of sea-ice thickness in the Arctic basin to examine how global change affects ice cover," explained Walter Tucker of the U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory. Tucker is supported by NSF to process and analyze all digital ice-draft data collected by Navy submarines in the Arctic since 1986. The National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado-Boulder is handling the actual data release.

The Arctic Submarine Laboratory, on behalf of the Chief of Naval Operations, approved declassifying the sea-ice data within a specific swath of the Arctic Ocean, roughly between Alaska and the North Pole. The area is known as the "Gore Box" for Vice President Al Gore's initiative to declassify Arctic military data for scientific use.

The data will provide a historical context for current, more intensive studies of Arctic ice by the Surface Heat Budget of the Arctic Ocean (SHEBA) project, in which NSF has frozen a ship into the ice to serve as a floating science platform for 13 months. SHEBA's aim is to chart the fate of the pack ice, ultimately improving predictions of global change.


Attachment: Map of Gore Box

NSF is making a transition to a new form of electronic distribution of news materials. We will eventually replace the current "listserve" with a new Custom News Service. From the toolbar on NSF's home page, (, you can sign up to receive electronic versions of all NSF materials (or those of your own choosing). Also see NSF news products at:,, and

***NSF is an independent federal agency responsible for fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering, with an annual budget of about $3.3 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states, through grants to more than 2,000 universities and institutions nationwide. NSF receives more than 50,000 requests for funding annually, including at least 30,000 new proposals.

National Science Foundation

Related Sea Ice Articles from Brightsurf:

2020 Arctic sea ice minimum at second lowest on record
NASA and the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) at the University of Colorado Boulder shows that the 2020 minimum extent, which was likely reached on Sept.

Sea ice triggered the Little Ice Age, finds a new study
A new study finds a trigger for the Little Ice Age that cooled Europe from the 1300s through mid-1800s, and supports surprising model results suggesting that under the right conditions sudden climate changes can occur spontaneously, without external forcing.

How much will polar ice sheets add to sea level rise?
Over 99% of terrestrial ice is bound up in the ice sheets covering Antarctic and Greenland.

A snapshot of melting Arctic sea ice during the summer of 2018
A study appearing July 29 in the journal Heliyon details the changes that occurred in the Arctic in September of 2018, a year when nearly 10 million kilometers of sea ice were lost throughout the summer.

Antarctic penguins happier with less sea ice
Researchers have been surprised to find that Adélie penguins in Antarctica prefer reduced sea-ice conditions, not just a little bit, but a lot.

Seasonal sea ice changes hold clues to controlling CO2 levels, ancient ice shows
New research has shed light on the role sea ice plays in managing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.

Artificial intelligence could revolutionize sea ice warnings
Today, large resources are used to provide vessels in the polar seas with warnings about the spread of sea ice.

Antarctic sea ice loss explained in new study
Scientists have discovered that the summer sea ice in the Weddell Sea sector of Antarctica has decreased by one million square kilometres -- an area twice the size of Spain -- in the last five years, with implications for the marine ecosystem.

Antarctic sea-ice models improve for the next IPCC report
All the new coupled climate models project that the area of sea ice around Antarctica will decline by 2100, but the amount of loss varies considerably between the emissions scenarios.

Earth's glacial cycles enhanced by Antarctic sea-ice
A 784,000 year climate simulation suggests that Southern Ocean sea ice significantly reduces deep ocean ventilation to the atmosphere during glacial periods by reducing both atmospheric exposure of surface waters and vertical mixing of deep ocean waters; in a global carbon cycle model, these effects led to a 40 ppm reduction in atmospheric CO2 during glacial periods relative to pre-industrial level, suggesting how sea ice can drive carbon sequestration early within a glacial cycle.

Read More: Sea Ice News and Sea Ice Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to