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PhD Thesis Defense: Cameron J. Planck

Friday, November 6, 2020, 3:00pm


For info on how to attend this videoconference, please email

"Observing and Analyzing Arctic Sea Ice Mass Balance Using Autonomous Systems"


A key manifestation of global climate change is the decline of the Arctic sea ice cover. Sea ice mass balance, which is simply the net difference between ice grown and ice melted, is an important parameter that can connect observed losses in ice extent and thickness to environmental forcings. While powerful as a concept, sparse observations of sea ice mass balance have limited understanding of the processes governing its evolution and reduced the ability to predict it in the future. In this work, we seek to increase understanding of sea ice mass balance evolution through two methods: first, by analyzing past observations of sea ice mass balance in a region of the Arctic which has experienced substantial change: the Beaufort Sea; and second, through development of an improved system for collecting mass balance observations.

Part one begins with results from the yearlong drifts of eight Lagrangian mass balance sites that drifted in the Beaufort Sea. Time series of ice growth, melt, and snow accumulation are tabulated and compared to estimates of environmental heat fluxes from models. At all sites, a net loss of ice was observed, and all but one saw the majority of this loss through bottom melting. The amount of bottom melting was also correlated to the solar heat deposited into the upper ocean. Part two then addresses the scarcity of mass balance observations by introducing a new Seasonal Ice Mass Balance Buoy platform. This buoy, referred to as SIMB-3, was designed with features to increase reliability and scalability while reducing cost and installation complexity. The design methods, considerations, stakeholders, and final product are discussed, and results from numerous deployments campaigns are presented. Finally, the case for commercialization of this technology is made.

Thesis Committee

For more information, contact Daryl Laware at