Investigations of Spatial and Temporal Variability of Ocean and Ice Conditions In and Near the Marginal Ice Zone (MIZOPEX)

Recent years have seen extreme changes in the Arctic sea ice cover and adjacent open ocean – reduced ice extent, record sea surface temperatures, thinner and younger ice, and loss of ice in areas that had been ice-covered throughout human memory.Particularly striking are changes within marginal ice zones (MIZ) – areas that are becoming increasingly covered by low concentration, diffuse sea ice.The proposed work, referred to here as the “Marginal Ice Zone Ocean and Ice Observations and Processes Experiment (MIZOPEX)”, brings to bear the capabilities of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in concert with in-situ observations and satellite remote sensing to address fundamental uncertainties in our understanding of, and ability to observe and predict, interactions of sea ice and ocean in these critical locations – an important step toward meeting NASA’s goal to better understand the Earth and its systems.

The main objectives of MIZOPEX are to improve knowledge of how ocean surface and near-surface properties vary and evolve as a function of ice characteristics in and near the MIZ, and to quantify the performance of satellite-derived geophysical products and climate models in these areas. In meeting these objectives, the project would demonstrate the value of coordinated use of multiple classes of UAS for earth science research.

The measurement strategy involves obtaining high spatial and temporal resolution observations of sea surface temperatures and sea ice conditions, combined with ocean in-situ and subsurface sampling for extended, continuous periods under clear and cloudy skies. These would be combined with satellite data and model output for analyses. MIZOPEX would consist of three phases: two intensive 2-week observing periods (IOP) in the Beaufort Sea or Fram Strait in summer 2012 utilizing Category I and Category II UAS (NASA SIERRA and Insight ScanEagle, respectively) along with miniature UAS (the CUMAV), followed by a data analysis/archiving reporting phase.The first IOP will address early/mid summer ocean conditions while the second will target late summer conditions.During the IOP, the aircraft observations would be augmented by coordination with in-situ measurements of ocean conditions.The minimum suite of measurements would include skin temperature, spectral reflectance and albedo, sea ice freeboard and roughness, ice melt pond characteristics, atmospheric state variables, and wave height.These would be obtained using infrared pyrometers, broadband and hyperspectral sensors, synthetic aperture radar, lidar, and electro-optical cameras.