Jim Thomson, Chair

Applied Physics Laboratory, Univ. of Washington

Stephen Ackley

Univ. Texas at San Antonio

Fabrice Ardhuin


Fanny Girard Ardhuin


Alexander Babanin

Swinburne Univ. of Technology

Byron Blomquist

University of Colorado

Tripp Collins

Naval Research Laboratory

Martin Doble

Laboratoire d'Oceanographie de Villefranche

Christopher Fairall

NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory

Johannes Gemmrich

Univ. of Victoria

Hans Graber

RMAS, Univ. Miami

Peter Guest

Naval Postgraduate School

Benjamin Holt

Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Susanne Lehner

German Aerospace Center (DLR)

Ted Maksym

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Michael Meylan

University of Newscastle

Fabien Montiel

University of Otago

William Perrie

Bedford Institute of Oceanography

Ola Persson

University of Colorado

Erick Rogers

Naval Research Laboratory/Stennis

Hayley H. Shen

Clarkson Univ.

Hui Shen

Bedford Institute of Oceanography

Vernon Squire

University of Otago

Sharon Stammerjohn

Colorado Univ. Boulder

Justin Stopa


Peter Sutherland


Peter Wadhams

Univ. of Cambridge

Timothy Williams

Nansen Environmental Remote Sensing Center

Sea State and Boundary Layer Physics of the Emerging Arctic Ocean

Office of Naval Research Departmental Research Initiative

The Emerging Arctic Ocean

When we talk about the emerging Arctic Ocean we are talking about more open water and less sea ice during summer. Waves have a larger role to play.

When the ice begins to regrow and advance southward in fall, what are the effects of storms and waves?

Sea State Cruise Animation

Field Campaign Data Set

This animation by Maddie Smith shows the Arctic Sea State research cruise on the R/V Sikuliaq in the autumn of 2015. The circle shows the location of the Sikuliaq, with the ship track remaining behind. Symbols show the locations of autonomous buoys deployed along the way. The blue color scale is ice concentration, and the white arrows indicate the wave magnitude and direction.

The counter at the bottom shows the number of satellite images acquired to aid in day-to-day planning during the cruise, as well as for context in data processing.

Data collection took place under four sampling modes: wave experiments, ice stations, flux stations, and ship surveys. This data set provides curated data from this field campaign in NetCDF data files.

Latest Insights

Emerging trends in the sea state of the Beaufort and Chukchi seas

Thomson, J., et al., "Emerging trends in the sea state of the Beaufort and Chukchi seas," Ocean Modell., 105, doi:10.1016/j.ocemod.2016.02.009, 2016.

More Info

1 Sep 2016

The sea state of the Beaufort and Chukchi seas is controlled by the wind forcing and the amount of ice-free water available to generate surface waves. Clear trends in the annual duration of the open water season and in the extent of the seasonal sea ice minimum suggest that the sea state should be increasing, independent of changes in the wind forcing. Wave model hindcasts from four selected years spanning recent conditions are consistent with this expectation. In particular, larger waves are more common in years with less summer sea ice and/or a longer open water season, and peak wave periods are generally longer. The increase in wave energy may affect both the coastal zones and the remaining summer ice pack, as well as delay the autumn ice-edge advance. However, trends in the amount of wave energy impinging on the ice-edge are inconclusive, and the associated processes, especially in the autumn period of new ice formation, have yet to be well-described by in situ observations. There is an implicit trend and evidence for increasing wave energy along the coast of northern Alaska, and this coastal signal is corroborated by satellite altimeter estimates of wave energy.

Wind and wave influences on sea ice floe size and leads in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas during the summer-fall transition 2014

Wang, Y., B. Holt, W.E. Rogers, J. Thomson, and H.H. Shen, "Wind and wave influences on sea ice floe size and leads in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas during the summer-fall transition 2014," J. Geophys. Res., 121, 1502-1525, doi:10.1002/2015JC011349, 2016.

More Info

20 Feb 2016

Sea ice floe size distribution and lead properties in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas are studied in the summer-fall transition 2014 to examine the impact on the sea ice cover from storms and surface waves. Floe size distributions are analyzed from MEDEA, Landsat8, and RADARSAT-2 imagery, with a resolution span of 1–100 m. Landsat8 imagery is also used to identify the orientation and spacing of leads. The study period centers around three large wave events during August–September 2014 identified by SWIFT buoys and WAVEWATCH III model data. The range of floe sizes from different resolutions provides the overall distribution across a wide range of ice properties and estimated thickness. All cumulative floe size distribution curves show a gradual bending toward shallower slopes for smaller floe sizes. The overall slopes in the cumulative floe size distribution curves from Landsat8 images are lower than, while those from RADARSAT-2 are similar to, previously reported results in the same region and seasonal period. The MEDEA floe size distributions appeared to be sensitive to the passage of storms. Lead orientations, regardless of length, correlate slightly better with the peak wave direction than with the mean wave direction. Their correlation with the geostrophic wind is stronger than with the surface wind. The spacing between shorter leads correlates well with the local incoming surface wavelengths, obtained from the model peak wave frequency. The information derived shows promise for a coordinated multisensor study of storm effects in the Arctic marginal ice zone.

DRI Description


In response to the observed decline in Arctic sea ice extent, the U.S. Navy has a renewed interest in understanding and predicting the environment in this region, including a desire to forecast the presence or absence of sea ice at a variety of lead times. However, there remain fundamental gaps in our knowledge of the physical environment and processes, interactions and feedbacks that are critical to understanding the seasonal evolution of sea ice and the effect of increasing open water on the ice and on the atmosphere, at the Arctic to hemispheric scale. To address this issue, the ONR Arctic and Global Prediction Program will support a 5-year Department Research Initiative (DRI) to better understand the sea state and boundary layer physics of the emerging Arctic Ocean, particularly in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.

  • Develop a sea state climatology, identify factors affecting the spatial and temporal variability of sea state, and improve forecasting of waves on the open ocean and in the marginal ice zone
  • Develop a climatology of and improve theory of wave attenuation/scattering in the sea ice cover
  • Use wave scattering theory directly in integrated Arctic system models, and indirectly to define an ice rheology for use in Arctic system models
  • Understand the physics of heat and mass transfer from the ocean to the atmosphere, and the seasonal variability of fluxes during summer ice retreat and autumn ice advance


Program Contact

The DRI is expected to run for five years, from FY13 to FY17. Years 1 and 2 will focus on science and experiment planning, science team building, developing inter-agency and international collaboration, and equipment development and testing. The major field effort will occur in Year 3 (FY15), followed by two years of data analysis and synthesis of results. The overall effort will require integration of theory, in situ and remote sensing observations, and modeling to accelerate discovery and understanding. The DRI is an ONR contribution to SEARCH, the federal inter-agency Study of Environmental Arctic Change.

Dr. Martin Jeffries
Program Officer and Science Advisor
Office of Naval Research, Code 32
875 N. Randolph Street
Arlington, VA 22203