Influence of ice thickness and surface properties on light transmission through Arctic sea ice

Christian.Katlein [ at ]


The changes in physical properties of sea ice such as decreased thickness and increased melt pond cover observed over the last decades severely impact the energy budget of Arctic sea ice. Increased light transmission leads to increased deposition of solar energy in the upper ocean and thus plays a crucial role in the amount and timing of sea-ice-melt and under-ice primary production. Recent developments in underwater technology provide new opportunities to undertake challenging research at the largely inaccessible underside of sea ice. We measured spectral under-ice radiance and irradiance onboard the new Nereid Under-Ice (NUI) underwater robotic vehicle, during a cruise of the R/V Polarstern to 83°N 6°W in the Arctic Ocean in July 2014. NUI is a next generation hybrid remotely operated vehicle (H-ROV) designed for both remotely-piloted and autonomous surveys underneath land-fast and moving sea ice. Here we present results from one of the first comprehensive scientific dives of NUI employing its interdisciplinary sensor suite. We combine under-ice optical measurements with three-dimensional under-ice topography and aerial images of the surface conditions. We investigate the influence of spatially varying ice-thickness and surface properties during summer on the spatial variability of light transmittance. Results show that surface properties dominate the spatial distribution of the under-ice light field on small scales (<1000m²), while sea ice-thickness is the most important predictor for light transmission on larger scales. In addition, we suggest an algorithm to obtain histograms of light transmission from distributions of sea ice thickness and surface albedo.

Item Type
Conference (Talk)
Primary Division
Primary Topic
Peer revision
Not peer-reviewed
Publication Status
Event Details
Internationale Polartagung, 06 Oct 2015 - 11 Oct 2015, München.
Eprint ID
Cite as
Katlein, C. , Arndt, S. and Nicolaus, M. (2015): Influence of ice thickness and surface properties on light transmission through Arctic sea ice , Internationale Polartagung, München, 6 October 2015 - 11 October 2015 .


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