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    Arctic Sea Ice

    Encyclopedia Arctica 7: Meteorology and Oceanography

    Arctic Sea Ice

    001      |      Vol_VII-0584                                                                                                                  

    [Harald U. Sverdrup]




            The ice in the sea is classified basically as Sea Ice , River Ice , and Land

    Ice . The sea ice is formed by the freezing of sea water, the river ice is, as

    the name implies, frozen on rivers and is carried out to sea in spring or early

    summer, and the land ice represents principally icebergs and pieces of glacier

    ice which are set adrift by the calving of glaciers. Of these forms only sea ice

    will be dealt with here, being the only form of major importance in the Arctic.

    River ice disintegrates rapidly and is never encountered at any distance from

    the river mouths, and icebergs are mainly important around Greenland, although

    small icebergs also originate from glaciers on Spitsbergen, Franz Josef Land,

    Novaya Zemlya, and Northern Land (Severnaya Zemlya).

            A systematic discussion of the sea ice is difficult because processes of

    freezing and melting, physical properties and appearance depend upon the life

    history of the ice and vary within wide limits. A description which should cover

    all the numerous aspects would become far too lengthy; certain generalizations

    are, therefore, necessary.

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            In recent years a number of attempts have been made to systematize the ice

    terminology which during generations has been in use by arctic pilots, hunters,

    and explorers and which pertains to the development stage and occurrence of the

    ice and to features that characterize the appearance of the surface or the ar–

    rangements of the ice.

            Terms referring to development stage and features related to freezing and


            Newly-Frozen Ice , subdivided in: Ice Crystals, separate needles or thin

    plates of pure ice. Frazil , cinder like crystals formed in moving water. Slush ,

    a thin layer of ice crystals which are not cemented together. Snow Slush , slush

    formed by snow crystals falling on water at freezing point. Sludge , pieces of

    soft ice mixed with slush. Ice Rind , a thin crust of hard ice. Pancake Ice ,

    nearly circular pieces of a thin ice formed by the breaking up of a thin ice

    crust and collis s ion of the pieces, giving them white, raised rims.

            Young Ice , newly formed ice which is 5 to 20 cm. thick.

            Winter Ice , ice which is not more than one winter old.

            Polar Ice , ice of more than one winter’s growth.

            Puddles , depressions in the ice filled by meltwater from a snow cover or

    from the surface of the ice.

            Meltwater Holes , generally round holes through which the meltwater runs off.

            Terms referring to occurrence :

            Fast Ice , ice which does not move horizontally, but moves vertically with

    the tide. Subdivisions: Winter Fast Ice [ ?] (Bay Ice), winter ice which remains

    at the locality where it forms. Polar Fast Ice , polar ice which may be carried

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    toward the coast in the fall and remain there during winter.

            Drift Ice , any type of sea ice which moves with wind and currents.

            Grounded Ice , ice that is grounded in shallow water.

            Anchor Ice (Bottom Ice), ice that is formed on the bottom, generally

    around stones or on rocky bottom.

            Terms referring to size and surface features, appearance :

            Ice Field , compact ice, at least 2 to 3 nautical miles in extent. Ice Floes ,

    ranging in dimensions from 30 feet to 2 or 3 nautical miles. Cakes, 6 to 30 feet

    large. Bits , less than 6 feet. Floebergs , heavy, hummocked ice more than 30 feet

    across and Growlers , small pieces of hummocked ice, lying low in the water.

            Flat Ice (Level Ice), ice which never has been disturbed and therefore has

    a flat surface, such as winter fast ice.

            Disturbed Ice (Pressure Ice), ice which has been subjected to pressure

    and may be further described by the following terms: Pressure Ridge , a long

    series of raised ice blocks of various sizes. Hummocks , irregular or isolated

    ice blocks. Hummocked Ice , ice with numerous irregular piles of ice blocks.

    Ice Moutonnee, hummocked ice which has been subjected to melting during summer

    whereby the hummocks have become low and rounded. Rafted Ice formed by floes

    overriding each other. Tented Ice formed when ice blocks are raised on end,

    resting against each other.

            Terms referring to arrangement :

            Open Drift Ice , small floes or cakes with sufficient open water between

    to permit navigation. Close Drift Ice , floes or cakes with so little open water

    between that navigation is possible , only by specially built vessels. Compact

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    Drift Ice , no open water. Unbroken Ice , term applicable to winter ice only.

    Terms like Bay , Tongue , Belt , Strip , Patches refer to features of distribution

    and are self-explanatory.

            Several of the above terms can be combined for complete description. One

    can, for instance, speak of close winter drift ice, mainly composed of small floes

    and cakes, or of a tongue of compact, hummocked polar ice.


    Freezing of Sea Ice

            The freezing point of sea water, t f , decreases nearly linearly with in–

    creasing salinity and can be expressed approximately by the equation t f =−0.0545 S,

    where S is the salinity in o/oo (parts per thousand). When sea water is being

    cooled, certain processes that take place differ from those characteristic of

    fresh water. Fresh water has its maximum density at 4°C. Therefore, when a large

    body of fresh water of a temperature above 4° in being cooled, [ ?]

    [ ?] the first stop is that the entire mass of water is

    cooled to 4°. By further cooling of the surface the cooled water does not sink

    because it becomes lighter than the deeper water, and ice freezes when the

    surface temperature reaches 0°C. Stirring by wind and waves may produce a

    surface layer of temperature 0° before freezing begins, but at greater depths

    the water will have a temperature of 4°.

            For sea water at salinity greater than 24.7 o/oo the density increase, on

    the other hand, until freezing point is reached; consequently a body of sea water

    of uniform salinity greater than 24.7 o/oo must be cooled to freezing point

    before ice can form on the surface. In general the salinity increases with depth,

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    but a surface layer of uniform salinity is often present, and this layer

    must be cooled to the freezing point corresponding to its salinity before

    ice forms at the x surface. Over the greater part of the Polar Sea the

    salinity of the surface layer lies between 30 o/oo and 33 o/oo, and the

    corresponding freezing points are about -1.63°C. and -1.80°C.

            When freezing occurs, there is first formed a network of elongated or

    platelike crystals of pure ice, and as the freezing progresses, this network

    becomes more and more dense, whereby some sea water becomes trapped. When the

    ice that is formed in this manner is cooled, part of the trapped water freezes

    to pure ice, but a brine remains, the concentration of which depends upon the

    temperature and always is such that the freezing point of the brine equals the

    temperature of the surrounding ice. Thus, sea ice is formed which consists

    of pure ice containing numerous small cavities filled by brine. At tempera–

    tures of −23°C. or lower some of the salt in the brine crystallizes out.

            At the underside of the ice freezing occurs in a similar manner during

    winter. The upper surface of the ice will have about the same temperature as

    the air, whereas the temperature of the underside remains at the freezing point

    corresponding to the salinity of the water in contact with the ice. Because

    of this temperature difference heat flows upward, and this heat is supplied by

    freezing at the underside. The flux of heat equals the heat conductivity of

    the ice multiplied by the temperature gradient in the ice (the rate of tempera–

    ture increases with depth). With the same air temperature of temperature

    gradient decreases with increasing thickness of the ice; consequently the ice

    first increases fast in thickness and later on more and more slowly, other circum–

    stances being equal. A snow cover [ ?] protects the ice surface effectively,

    and greatly reduces the freezing.

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            In summer freezing takes place in a different manner in regions where

    the ice does not melt completely. Meltwater from the ice that runs down through

    cracks, has a temperature of about 0°C. and is practically fresh. It is, there–

    fore, lighter than the sea water and spreads directly under the ice. By contact

    with the still cold ice masses and the underlying cold sea water it freezes,

    but in such a manner that a soft slush of ice forms with large spaces filled by

    sea water between the ice crystals. Later in the season this slush slowly

    solidifies by the freezing of the trapped sea water, and when this process

    goes on, the ice does not appear to increase in thickness. The solidifying may

    take several months, so that a noticeable change in the thickness of old ice

    floes may not occur until after the middle of December.


    Temperature of the Sea Ice

            The temperature of ice in contact with sea water always equals the freez–

    ing point that corresponds to the salinity of the water. The underside of ice

    floes is therefore always at freezing point. The temperature on the top side of

    the ice depends, on the other hand, on the air temperature and the snow cover.

    Over the Polar Sea the winter precipitation is small and, furthermore, the snow

    blows off the large floes and accumulates in drifts along pressure ridges and

    hummocks. The large floes are therefore often free from snow or covered by 3

    to 5 cm. of hard-packed snow, and in these circumstances the surface of ice floes

    attains in winter a temperature that is only a few degrees above the air tempera–

    ture. The salinity of the sea water in contact with the ice remains nearly

    constant and consequently the temperature at the underside of a polar ice floe

    remains practically constant during the entire year, whereas the temperature of

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    the surface shows a large annual variation and at intermediate depths a

    smaller one. Figure 1 shows the temperatures in an old ice floe throughout

    the year and indicates also the changes in thickness of the ice. It is seen

    that at the end of August the upper 50 cm. of the ice are at 0°C. and must

    therefore be free from salt. Cooling of the surface begins in September and

    penetrates rapidly to greater depths, but near the underside an appreciable

    temperature gradient is not established before November. Near the surface the

    lowest [ ?] winter temperature, −30°C., is reached in February, but at a depth of

    2 meters the lowest temperature, −10°C., is reached at the end of March. By

    the middle of April the heating of the surface temperature rises more rapidly

    than that at a greater depth, so that near the surface the temperature decreases

    with increasing depth. The figure is based on measurements during the Maud

    expedition, which gave results in general agreement with those of the Fram .

    They can, therefore, be considered fairly representative of the temperature

    conditions in old floes of polar ice.


    Salt Content of Sea Ice

            The salinity of sea ice can be defined in the same manner as that of sea

    water and expressed in per mille (parts per thousand or gram of salt per

    thousand gram of ice). The salinity of the ice varies within wide limits,

    from 0 to 15 o/oo or more, and depends mainly upon the life history of the

    ice, that is, upon the rapidity of freezing and upon the temperature changes

    to which the ice has been subjected after freezing. In winter, when ice may

    freeze at low air temperatures, the freezing takes place so rapidly that [ ?]

    much brine becomes trapped, and salinities as high as 15 o/oo may occur. Ice

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    which freezes at the underside of a thick floe forms, on the other hand, slowly

    and shows salinities of 4 to 6 o/oo. If the air temperature at freezing is

    below about −30°C., salt crystallizes on the surface of the ice which then,

    even at the lowest temperature, becomes moist and sticky. This ice is very

    dark and the salt crystals on the surface look like rime. Travelers should

    avoid such ice because the brine penetrates the best l e ather and sledge runners


            When sea ice has been formed, its salinity does net remain constant, be–

    cause the trapped brine moves slowly down. This downward motion which leads

    to a ff freshening of the top layers has been explained by two processes. In

    the first place the [ ?] brine-filled cavities in the ice may be so numerous or

    so large that the ice can be considered as a porous substance through which the

    brine slowly sinks because of its higher specific gravity. This process is

    probably of particular importance in spring and early summer when the temperature

    of the surface layers of the ice is raised to 0°C. As the temperature approaches

    0°C., the cavities in which the brine is enclosed must increase a great deal by

    the melting of the surrounding ice because the concentration of the brine must

    always be that which corresponds to the concentration at freezing point. When

    the cavities become large enough, all brine trickles down, leaving the ice

    completely free from salt. Ice blocks which have been raised as a result of

    pressure become fresh in summer and render potable water when melted. Similarly,

    ponds that late in the season form on the uneven surface of the floes, contain

    fresh water.

            A second explanation of the gradual downward movement of the brine has been

    suggested by Dr. W. G. Whitman. He points out that where the temperature increases

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    with depth, the concentration of salt in a tiny bubble of brine must tend to

    be greatest at the top of the bubble where the temperature is lowest. The

    specific gravity will, therefore, tend to be greatest at the top of the bubble,

    but such a tratification is unstable, and a slow overturn must take place,

    whereby the concentration at the top becomes smaller than that corresponding

    to the existing temperature, and at the bottom it becomes greater. To estab–

    lish equilibrium some ice must freeze at the top and melt at the bottom, mean–

    ing that the entire bubble must be displaced downward, and that the salt content

    at any given depth must be altered.

            It seems probable that both processes operate. The latter may be effective

    during winter and would, for instance, account for the fact that during the

    Maud expedition it was observed that at a depth of 125 cm. the salinity in a floe

    of winter ice was 7.9 o/oo when the ice was 130 cm. thick, but two months later,

    when the ice was 190 cm. thick, the salinity at a depth of 125 cm. had decreased

    to 4.3 o/oo. Changes at other depths were probably also caused by the down–

    ward movement of brine bubbles. The rapid spring and summer freshening of the

    surface layers must, however, be caused by the first processes, the tricking

    down of the brine through ice that has become porous. This conclusion is based

    on the fact that by the middle of April the surface temperature of the ice has

    risen so much that near the surface the temperature decreases with depth.

    During late spring and early summer the temperature distribution should, there–

    fore, bring about an upward movement of the brine, contrary to what actually

    takes place, meaning that in this season the porosity of the ice is of dominating


            When dealing with the temperature conditions it was pointed out that at the

    end of the summer the ice was at a temperature of 0°C. down to a depth of about

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    50 cm., and that therefore the upper 50 cm. of an old ice floe must be nearly

    free from salt. This condition is supported by observations on board the

    Maud of the salinity of the upper layers in an old ice floe which showed a

    salinity of 0 o/oo at the surface and a salinity of 0.5 o/oo at 60 cm. These

    values indicate that one can obtain potable water from the surface layers of

    an old ice floe, but this cannot be [ ?] recommended because a salt content of a

    few g tenths of a per mille may be present, and in the long run even this small

    amount is liable to cause trouble. The best procedure is to use ice from old

    pressure ridges or ice that has frozen on freshwater ponds at the foot of pres–

    sure ridges or large hummocks. Occasionally the water should be tested by adding

    a few drops of a weak solution of silver nitrate to a sample. If the sample

    turns milky, the salt content is too high.


    The Melting of the Ice

            From the preceding discussion of the salt content of the ice it is evident

    that in a block of sea ice every lowering of the temperature is accompanied by

    freezing, and every increase in temperature by melting. In spring, melting there–

    fore begins from within when the temperature of the surface layers starts to rise.

            The rise of the temperature is caused mainly by absorption of radiation, but

    as long as there exists even a thin snow cover, about 75% of the radiation from

    sun and sky is reflected, and only about 25% is absorbed. As soon as the snow

    has melted and the ice has been exposed, the reflection from the surface is re–

    duced to about 50%, and consequently the melting proceeds much faster. The melt–

    ing is further accelerated when water collects on the ice in puddles, because

    a water surface reflects only 8% of the radiation from an overcast sky. In addi–

    tion small particles of mud, pebbles, and pieces of shell absorb most of the

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    radiation and accelerate the melting around them. The result of these changes

    in the reflective power of the surface is that in spite of the short summer

    the thickness of the ice is greatly reduced by melting during the months of

    July and August, when the air temperature remains close to 0°C. According to

    the measurements during the Maud expedition, the average reduction in thickness

    was about 120 cm., and it seems probable that even in the central part of the

    Polar Sea an average of about 100 cm. of ice melts in summer. Some of the melt–

    water freezes again and forms slush at the underside of the floes (see above), but

    the increase in thickness by that process is not considered here.

            The melting of the ice is very uneven. Pressure ridges are reduced in

    height and assume rounded forms, and melting is rapid where particles occur

    or where puddles of water have formed. In some instances puddles may grow to

    such dimensions that they are called “lakes,” and may be up to 100 cm. deep.

    From the Drifting Pole Station there is even a report of a lake that was 200 to

    400 meters wide and 250 cm. deep. In other instances a small puddle may deepen,

    a hole may develop clear through a thick floe, and part of the melt water runs

    off through this hole. It stands to reason that dark particles and collections

    of meltwater accelerate the melting because they reflect less of the incoming

    radiation than the surface of the ice, but a closer examination of the processes

    has not been carried out.


    Physical Properties of Sea Ice

            The physical properties of sea ice depend upon the salt content of the

    ice and upon the air bubbles in the ice. On the Maud expedition Malmgren

    carried out a large number of determinations of various of the characteristics

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    of sea ice, and the following information is based mainly on his results.

            Specific Gravity . The specific gravity of sea ice is reduced by air bubbles,

    but increased if bubbles are filled by brine. It varies between 0.85 and 0.92

    whereas the specific gravity of pure ice is 0.9168.

            Latent Heat of Fusion . The freezing and melting of sea ice does not take

    place at a fixed temperature because of its content of brine. It is therefore

    not possible to designate the heat of fusion in the usual manner; instead one may

    indicate the number of gram calories needed to melt 1 gram of ice of a given

    salinity, assuming that at the beginning of the process the ice was at a tempera–

    ture close to 0°C. Thus, if the initial temperature were −1°, the apparent

    latent heat would be 80 g.cal., if the salinity were 0 (pure ice), 63 g.cal.,

    if the salinity were 4 o/oo and 46 g.cal. if the salinity were 8 o/oo.

            Specific Heat . The specific heat of pure ice is about 0.48 (g.cal./g/°C.),

    and varies slightly with temperature. The specific heat of sea ice, on the

    other hand, varies within wide limits with salinity and temperature, because

    changing the temperature of sea ice involves freezing or melting of ice. At

    temperatures close to 0° the amounts that freeze or melt at a slight change of

    temperature are large if the salt content is higher, and the “specific heat” is

    then quite anomalous. At low temperature the specific heat approaches that of

    pure ice. These features are illustrated by a few [ ?] numerical values:

    Salinity, Specific heat at a °C. temperature of:
    o/oo −2° −8° −14° −20°
    0 .48 /49 .48 .47 .47
    4 4.63 0.76 0.57 0.55
    8 10.83 1.01 0.64 0.60

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            Thermal Expansion . Pure ice behaves as most solids, expanding with

    rising and contracting with falling temperature. The coefficient of expansion

    is defined as the relative change in specific volume, [ ∝?] , ( [ ∆∝?] / [ ∝?] ) per degree

    change in temperature and has a value of 1.7 × 10 -4 . In the case of sea ice the

    freezing and melting of the ice that surrounds the enclosed brine leads to

    entirely different values, because freezing is accompanied by an increases of the

    specific volume (ice has a lower density than water) and melting by a decrease.

    Consequently, if the temperature of sea ice is lowered, it will expand if the

    increase in specific volume due to freezing exceeds the decrease related to the

    contraction of the pure ice. In general one finds that ice of high salinity

    expands when cooled if the temperature is relatively high, but contracts at low

    temperature. Expansion by cooling is indicated by a negative coefficient of

    expansion. These features are illustrated by a few numerical values:

    Salinity 10 4 × coefficient of thermal expansion

    at a °C. temperature of
    o/oo −2° −8° −14° −20°
    0 1.7 1.7 1.7 1.7
    4 −45.9 −1.4 0.8 1.1
    8 −93.5 −4.4 −0.1 0.4

            Thermal conductivity . The coefficient of thermal conductivity (g.cal./cm./

    sec./°C.) of pure ice has a value of about 5 × 10 -3 . Malmgren’s measurements

    show that the conductivity of sea ice is greatly reduced if the ice contains air

    bubbles. In old ice floes there are generally more air bubbles near the surface

    than at greater depths, and this is reflected in an increase of the thermal conduc–

    tivity with depth. Near the ice surface the value was 1.5 × 10 -3 , at 0.5 meters

    it was 4 × 10 -3 , and below 1 m. it was about 5 × 10 -3 .

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            Vapor Pressure . The vapor pressure of sea ice has not been examined, but

    is probably very nearly the same as that of pure ice.

            Latent Heat of Evaporation . Under certain conditions ice can vaporize

    directly, in which case the latent heat of [ ?] evaporation is about 600 gram

    calories per gram. In nature it seems that ice first melts and then vaporizes,

    in which case the latent heat of evaporation is about 700 gram calories per gram.


    Transformations and Seasonal Changes

            Winter ice remains undisturbed only in protected areas like bays and fjords

    (bay ice). When summer comes, this ice either melts completely, particularly

    when fresh water flows out, or it melts near shore while the remainder breaks

    up and drifts away.

            Toward the end of the summer there are, all over the Arctic, many and large

    openings in the polar ice. In the fall, ice freezes over these, but in the spring

    one rarely comes across any expanses of winter ice except within protected regions.

    The reason for this is that elsewhere the ice is always in motion under the in–

    fluence of changing winds, and since the winds never blow with uniform velocity

    and constant direction over large areas, the ice is in some areas pressed together

    by converging winds, and in others it is term apart by diverging winds. Where

    the winds converge the ice floes are squeezed together with such force that the

    rims break off and pile up on top of each other, forming pressure ridges which

    may rise 4 or 5 meters above the general level of the ice and below which ice may

    accumulate to a total thickness of 20 to 25 meters. Where young ice of uniform

    thickness is pressed together, the pressure ridges may be fairly regular (rafted

    or tented ice), but where polar ice is subjected to pressure, more irregular

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    ridges result.

            Many [ ?] arctic explorers have given vivid descriptions of the impressive

    spectacle when huge pressure ridges are formed. They have also described the

    many sounds, from creaking or groaning to a thunderous [ ?] roar, that accompany

    the jamming of the ice. In winter these sounds are often heard over distances of

    many miles, particularly in calm weather. The reason for the excellent audibility

    is in part that in calm weather there are no other disturbing sounds, and in

    part that there always exists a marked temperature inversion which bends the

    sound down and therefore makes it heard at long distances from the source. In

    summer the inversion generally d si is appears and the sound range becomes much

    shorter. If an inversion occurs in summer, it is accompanied by fog, and in fog

    the sounds are therefore often little heard.

            Where the winds diverge, the ice is term part, and by this process lanes

    and leads are formed in any season of the year. In winter a lane that is open–

    ing up can be observed from great distances (if the light permits) because of

    the frost smoke (fog) from the open water. This frost smoke does not last long,

    however, because in intense cold the lane freezes over very rapidly.

            One might believe that, when pressure occurs at some later time, the

    newly frozen ice over a lane may be squeezed together first, or that cracks will

    first appear in the young ice if the ice opens up, but no hard and fast rules

    apply. In many instances the ice is broken apart or pressed together along

    lines of weakness, but in other cases an old floe may split or be compressed.

    The lanes which open up in winter are often fairly straight, and similarly the

    continuous pressure ridges may run over long distances, but they will vary in

    height. In between there are relatively even ice floes which, however, rarely ,

    are more than a fraction of a mile across, and are mostly covered by only a few

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    inches of hard-blown snow. But these floes are not level because they are several

    years old and may represent pressure fields which have been smoothed by summer

    melting, or thick floes which have melted unevenly. Because of the random charac–

    ter of the winds, the pressure ridges run in all directions, crossing each other

    and forming an irregular network or forming pressure fields which represent masses

    of irregular hummocks. On some parts of the continental shelves the tidal cur–

    rents may contribute to the movement of the ice, but over the deep Polar Sea they

    are too weak to be of any importance. Where the movement of the ice is impeded

    by the coast and where the water is deep, enormous pressure ridges may be [ ?]

    built, reaching heights up to 20 meters.

            There also exist regions far from land where prevailing conditions are re–

    flected in special features of the ice. One may mention Peary’s “big lane” to

    the north of Greenland and Zubov’s suggestion that to the north of Franz Josef

    Land, beyond latitude 86°N. or 87°N., there exists a belt of hummocky ice which

    [ ?] separates the ice originated on the Siberian shelf areas from the ice of the

    central Polar Basin.

            The opening of lanes, the freezing of young ice, and the compression of

    the ice lead to an increase in the thickness of the ice which is much greater than

    that caused by freezing only, but no estimates are available as to how great the

    increase may be. It will be shown that there exists a limit to the thickness

    which relatively flat floes can attain by freezing only, but every flat floe is

    surrounded by pressure ridges below which large quantities of ice are accumulated.

    At the end of the winter the average thickness of the polar ice depends upon the

    proportions of flat floes and pressure ridges, and upon the amount of ice under

    the latter.

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            The increase in the total ice cover and the increase [ ?] in the thickness

    of the ice due to freezing and compression do not give a complete picture of the

    total winter production of ice in the Arctic. It must also be remembered that

    large quantities of ice are carried out of the Polar Sea by the East Greenland

    Current. The existing estimates of the amounts of ice that are carried out vary

    from 3,000 km 3 . per year (Zubov) to 8,000 km 3 . per year (Wiese), and even 12,700 km 3 .

    per year (Krümmel). Zubov states that his estimate is low, but the others are

    undoubtedly high, for which reason the correct value may lie at about 5,000 km 3 .

    per year. This amoung is probably more than 50% of the total amount that is

    added to the ice cover of the Polar Sea by freezing. Assuming that at the end

    of the summer an area of 7.5 million km 3 . is covered by ice of an average thickness

    of 3.1 m. (taking pressure regions into account) and that at the beginning of the

    summer the corresponding values are 8 [ ?] million km 3 . And 4 m., respectively, one

    finds that the amount of ice in the Polar Sea has been increased by 8,750 km 3 .

    With a season of freezing of 9.5 months, the amount of ice dischar b g ed in that

    time would have been 4,000 km 3 . And the total annual production would be about

    12,750 km 3 .

            In summer the lanes that open up do not freeze over because all over the

    Polar Sea the air temperature remains at 0° or very slightly above from the middle

    of June to the middle or end of August. The lanes which form follow irregular

    lines, and the ice fields on both sides move apart and sidewise. Therefore,

    when the ice is squeezed together, the saw teeth along the rims of the fields do

    not fit into each other, but corner meets corner, leaving smaller or larger open

    areas in between. As the season advances, more and more of such openings are

    formed, and at the end of July they are so numerous and large that the areas of

    openings in the polar ice may represent 5 to 10 per cent of the total areas.

    018      |      Vol_VII-0601                                                                                                                  
    EA-Oc. Sverdrup: Arctic Sea Ice

            The reduction of the total ice cover may in part be caused by melting, but

    is probably more related to the outflow of ice along the East Greenland coast.

    During the 2-1/2 months when melting dominates, about 1,000 km 3 . of ice are

    carried south by the East Greenland Current, meaning that the ice cover is re–

    duced by an area of about 0.3 million km 3 ., representing about 4% of the total area

    of the Polar Sea and adjacent seas.


    The Thickness of the Ice. Transport of Material by the Ice.

            Winter ice can freeze to a thickness of 150 to 250 cm., depending upon the

    length and severity of the winter.

            Polar ice attains a thickness which depends on freezing in winter and melt–

    ing in summer, and on the compression and telescoping that takes place in winter.

    For flat ice floes there exists a limit to the thickness which can be reached by

    processes of freezing and melting only. The melting at the surface is rep [ ?]

    repeated each summer and depends on the length of the summer season, but is inde–

    pendent of the thickness of the ice (provided that this is so great that the ice

    does not melt completely). The increase in thickness by freezing at the under–

    side of the ice depends, on the other hand, on the thickness of the ice and on

    the length and severity of the cold season. If the meteorological conditions do

    not vary much from one year to another, a balance will be reached, such that the

    amount that freezes in winter equals the amount that thaws in summer. The ice

    thickness will then show a regular annual variation with maximum thickness when sur–

    face melting begins and minimum thickness when freezing temperatures become preva–

    lent in the autumn, but the extremes will not vary much from one year to another.

    The average thickness depends mosty mostly upon the amount of melting in summer,

    and the average thickness decreases.

    019      |      Vol_VII-0602                                                                                                                  
    EA-Oc. Sverdrup: Arctic Sea Ice

            In the East Siberian Sea the reduction in thickness by melting amounts to

    about 120 cm. ( Maud ), but in the central part of the Arctic the summer melting is

    probably less than 100 cm., and the corresponding maximum thickness is greater.

            As examples the fallowing values may be quoted. During the Fram expedition

    it was found that ice that started freezing over a lane in September 1893 attained

    a thickness of 258 cm. on June 6, 1894. Subsequently the following values ware


    Date Thickness, cm. Remarks
    June 20, 1894 258
    July 7, 1894 276 Thickness increased by freezing of

    meltwater at underside of ice
    Sept. 1894 200
    Nov. 11, 1894 208
    Dec. 17, 1894 211
    May 5, 1895 300
    May 30, 1895 303

            It is characteristic that a conspicuous increase in thickness did not start

    before the middle of December, the reason being that from September to December

    the loww of heat from the surface was used for lowering the temperature of the ice

    and solidifying the slush that had formed at the under side in summer (see Fig. 1).

    The same feature was observed on board the Sedov .

            q The thickness recorded above was reached after two winters and does not

    represent the maximum thickness that could have been reached. The measurements of

    the thickness of that particular floe could not be continued because it was crushed,

    but measurements of an old floe [ ?] showed an increase from 336 cm. on Nov. 4,

    1895, to 398 cm. on May 5, 1896. Therefore the maximum thickness of the relatively

    even ice floes in the [ ?] neighborhood of the Fram was about 4 meters.

    020      |      Vol_VII-0603                                                                                                                  
    EA-Oc. Sverdrup: Arctic Sea Ice

            Measurements daring the drift of the Maud gave a maximum value of 334 cm.

    and it was concluded that in the East Siberian Sea the thickness of old floes

    varied from 200 to 250 cm. at the end of the summer to 300 to 340 cm. at the end

    of the cold season.

            On the Sedov , on the other hand, the maximum observed thickness of rela–

    tively even ice was surprisingly small, only 218 cm. Zubov attributes this small

    value to an increase of the length of the summer season compared to conditions

    during the Fram expedition. The Drifting Pole Station was, on the other hand,

    established on a floe more than 3 meters thick.

            It seems possible that relatively flat ice floes of much greater thicknesses

    than mentioned here may be found in other parts of the Arctic, but processes of

    freezing and melting cannot be alone responsible for their formation. Extensive

    hummocking must have taken place at some time. A field of badly hummocked ice

    may attain an average thickness of 10 meters or more, but after it has been exposed

    to melting during one or two summers, most of the hummocks have disappeared, leav–

    ing a floe with a somewhat irregular surface, but with an average thickness of

    about 8 meters. This floe will gradually decrease in thickness, but it will take

    6 to 8 years before it is reduced to a thickness of 4 meters. Unusually heavy ice

    floes formed in this manner may be found off the Canadian Archipelago and in the

    central part of the Polar Sea, but not on the Siberian side.

            From all that is known it seems that the ice under pressure ridges rarely

    is as much as 20 meters thick. Off the Siberian coast the thickness is generally

    lees because there grounded ice is most often found where the depth is 8 to 10

    meters. From the region of the Canadian Archipelago a maximum grounding depth of

    about 35 meters (20 fathoms) is reported.

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    EA-Oc. Sverdrup: Arctic Sea Ice

            On the Siberian coast fast ice is generally found in winter inside of the

    10-meter depth contour. On the open coast this fast ice is mainly composed of

    smaller or larger floes of polar ice which ground and become cemented together

    during the winter. When the water is shallow, mud, pebbles, and shell freeze

    fast to the underside the floe. During summer, when melting takes place, the

    floe rises and may be carried away from the coast bringing with it an embedded

    layer of various debris. The floe may join the polar drift ice and may be subject

    to freezing from below and melting in succeeding winters and summers. After each

    winter more ice freezes below the layer of mud and after one, two, or three

    years it reaches the surface of the floe some time during the summer. This

    process accounts for the appearance of mud, stones, and shelle on the surface

    of ice floes which may be located hundreds of miles from the nearest coast. When

    the mud and so on become exposed the melting of the ice is greatly accelerated

    and in many places holes are formed through which the particles are washed down.

    The rafting of debris by the ice results therefore in depositions of near-shore

    material at great distance from the source of the material.

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    EA-Oc. Sverdrup: Arctic Sea Ice


    Malmgren, F. “On the Properties of Sea Ice.” The Norw. North Polar Exped. with

    the Maud , 1918-25. Sc.Res . vol. 1, no.5. Bergen, 1927.

    Maurstad, A. Atlas of Sea Ice . Geof.Publ., vol. 10, no. 11, Oslo, 1935.

    Mohn, H. “Meteorology,” The Norw. North Polar Exped. 1893-96. Sc.Res ., vol. VI.

    Christiania, 1905.

    Sverdrup, H.U. “The waters on the North Siberian Shelf.” The Norw. North Polar

    Exped. with the Maud 1918-25. Sc.Res ., vol. 4, no.2. Bergen, 1905.

    Whitman, W. G. “Elimination of Salt from Sea-Water Ice. (Mass. Institute of

    Technology) Amer.Jrnl.Science , vol.11, 5th series, no.62, 1926.

    Zubov, H. N. “The Drift of the Ice-Breaker Sedov.” Nature , vol. 145, p.533.

    London, 1940.

    ----. The Center of the Arctic . Leningrad, 1940.


    Harald U. Sverdrup

    023      |      Vol_VII-0606                                                                                                                  


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