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Sea-Ice Monitoring

From 2006 to 2010, a community-based sea ice observation network was created for the Siku-Inuit-Hila (Sea Ice-People-Weather) project, an international, interdisciplinary project that investigated the relationship between humans and sea ice in the Arctic communities of Qaanaaq, Greenland, Barrow, Alaska, and Clyde River, Nunavut. 

The project is complete, but in response to interest from other communities and researchers, the National Snow and Ice Data Centre has made a Sea Ice Monitoring Handbook available to anyone who wants to establish a local sea ice monitoring program. The handbook can be downloaded here (It is NSIDC Special Report 14. An Inuktitut version of the handbook is available by contacting the NSIDC directly at

Although there is no substitute for hands-on practice and training, this handbook contains complete instructions for assembling the necessary equipment and using it to monitor sea ice and snow.

You can learn how to build, install, and operate measurement sites to observe sea ice thickness and snow depth through the winter and spring. Chapter 1 describes how to drill through the sea ice to measure ice thickness, snow depth, freeboard, and water depth. It also provides a sheet for you to record all the measurements along with the date and location. Many holes can be drilled during a single trip onto the ice in order to see how much the sea ice varies from one location to another. However, each time a hole is drilled it disturbs the ice, so future measurements may be affected.

Chapters 2 and 3 describe how to install an ice station where repeated measurements can be taken without disturbing the ice cover each time. This is vital for a reliable long-term program to measure growth and melt. In Chapter 4, measuring the surface temperature of the ice and the temperature of the snow at different depths is discussed. Chapter 5 describes how to retrieve the equipment from the sea ice and store it over the summer.

For more information, or if you are interested in starting your own sea-ice monitoring program, please contact us at

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