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Dispatch 9: In Search of Ice

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September 14th Photos
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David Jones and Andrey Proshutinsky

September 14, 2017

Weather: 100 % cloud cover, 30-35 knot winds, ice covered seas, snow

Temperature: -9 ˚C and dropping

Relative humidity: 91%

Location: Beaufort Sea, 79˚ 12’ N; 137˚ 32’ W


After finishing work at Station CB16 at about midnight last night, we are now headed in a northeasterly direction in search of suitable ice for the first ice station. We have been travelling at about 8 knots through plenty of ice since late yesterday but it is all in the 10 to 30 centimeter range and an ice station ideally will be on 2-3-meter multi-year ice. A helicopter flight is planned for later today IF the weather improves. We got into pretty snotty weather starting late yesterday leaving the decks with some accumulated overnight snow. The helicopter pilot is understandably reluctant to fly in high winds and driving snow. It is important to find the 2-3-meter multi-year ice so that the ice station is 1) safe to work on and 2) will be able to support the to-be-deployed Ice Tethered Profiler (ITP) that holds all the instrumentation that will be left behind. Multi-year ice tends to move around driven by the wind ocean currents so the data collected can give us a somewhat random survey of the remote arctic 24-7, 365. Most of the ITP's are never recovered (unlike the moorings). Each ice station costs about $75k, but it costs about $90k to travel to a specific site for a recovery operation and since most of the equipment is crushed to bits by the ice flow, all that is usually recovered is a bunch of un-reusable stuff. So it is (ironically) more economical to just leave it as "sea trash."

Time to play acronym alphabet soup! Any organization worth its salt has to have a myriad of acronyms. JOIS 2017, is no exception. Here is a list of the most common acronyms I've run into thus far:


Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler


Arctic Observing Network


Beaufort Gyre Exploration Project


Beaufort Gyre Observing System


Canadian Coast Guard Ship


Colored Dissolved Organic Matter


Cold Regions Research Laboratory


Conductivity, Temperature, Depth probe


Fisheries and Oceans Canada (Department of Fisheries and Oceans)


Dissolved Inorganic Carbon


Dissolved Oxygen


Ice-Based Observatory


Ice Mass Balance Buoy


Institute of Ocean Sciences


Ice-Tethered Profiler


Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology


Joint Ocean Ice Studies


Louis S. St. Laurent (the icebreaker ship)


Marginal Ice Zone


Pan-Arctic Climate Investigation


Partial pressure of Carbon Dioxide


Submersible Autonomous Moored Instrument


Santa Claus (you never know being this close to the North Pole)


University of Montana


Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution


Expendable Conductivity, Temperature, Depth probe


Crew Member Focus

Tony Walker is the Logistics Officer for the Louis S. St. Laurent. Tony came to the Coast Guard after a stint at the Marytown Shipyard. Prior to that he attended Burin College where he got his accounting background. Tony lives in Garnish, Newfoundland when not on ship, he is married and has two grown children. He says Garnish was historically a fishing community but "a lot of lives were changed" when the fishing moratorium was put in place in the mid 1980's. As the Logistics Officer, Tony supervises the galley staff, the housekeeping staff and the ship’s Storekeeper. He also manages the ship’s budget and functions as the ship’s administrator. Having been with the Coast Guard now for 27 ½ years, he is starting to think seriously about retirement so he can pursue some of his hobbies (golf, fly fishing, moose and bird hunting) full time. 

“Outstanding geo-engineering”: super cold Arctic

From the 1950’s to the 1970s, the public interest to the Arctic studies grew due to intensive development of natural resources in the Northern parts of Siberia (gold, diamonds, oil, gas, etc.). This development has resulted in a significant intensification of Northern Sea Route navigation as well as numerous discoveries of arctic scientists working year round on drifting stations in the Arctic Ocean (read more about history of polar studies at and go to “History”). People working in the Arctic suffered in the extremes of Arctic weather.  As a result, several ideas on how to improve the life of people at these stations were proposed in letters which were received by the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute from people motivated to help. One of these letters proposed planting trees around the perimeter of ice floes assuming that tree roots would prevent ice from breaking apart.

An “outstanding” idea was described in one of these letters by somebody with last name of Balabanov. I do not recall his first name and unfortunately we could not find his letter in the AARI archives two weeks ago, but I still remember some of the details of this project. Balabanov provided a plan with some technical details on how to separate the Arctic Ocean from the rest of the world. Figures 13 and 14 explain how to do this. This major technical solution was similar to what was recently proposed by S. Desch et al. [2017] outlined in our September 12 dispatch: pump ocean water onto the sea ice surface where it would freeze and increase total ice thickness. Desch et al. proposed to increase ice thickness by 1 meter, but Balabanov’s idea was to grow at least 500m ice mountains along perimeter of the Arctic Ocean (Figure 13). He thought that this would be easy to do speculating that all we have to do is initiate some sea ice accumulation at the top of an ice floe. Then under the weight of new accumulated ice, the ice floe would be pushed down and water would move up through the ice hole where a pump was installed.  Then the new ice would continue freezing at the top of the ice floe and mountains would grow quickly under the very cold Arctic climate conditions. A bit later (as Balabanov explained), the ice-mountains would reach some critical height and block the transport of heat and moisture from southern latitudes to the North. This could then cause a lot of snow to precipitate over the top of these mountains (similar to Greenland’s ice sheet formation). The height of the mountains would continue increasing and eventually completely block the Arctic from the rest of the planet. Unfortunately, this would not work because the sea ice floats at the ocean’s surface and water would not be able to reach the ice surface without pumps.

After this point, Balabanov hypothesized, that the climate of our planet would significantly improve. Moreover, the very cold and dense (practically compressed to liquid conditions) arctic air, could be transported by pipelines to the low latitudes.  It could be used in various ways– transportation, for example. He assumed that expanding air could be used in motors of cars and buses.

If you have questions and/or your own proposals and new ideas about Arctic climate change by geo-engineering, please contact Susan Sholi at

Last updated: October 7, 2019

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