Geophysical Research Letters (September 25, 2015; DOI: 10.1002/2015GL065704) / by Christian Haas and Stephen E. L. Howell
Recently, the feasibility of commercial shipping in the ice-prone Northwest Passage (NWP) has attracted a lot of attention. However, very little ice thickness information actually exists. We present results of the first ever airborne electromagnetic ice thickness surveys over the NWP carried out in April and May 2011 and 2015 over first-year and multiyear ice. These show modal thicknesses between 1.8 and 2.0 m in all regions. Mean thicknesses over 3 m and thick, deformed ice were observed over some multiyear ice regimes shown to originate from the Arctic Ocean. Thick ice features more than 100 m wide and thicker than 4 m occurred frequently. Results indicate that even in today’s climate, ice conditions must still be considered severe. These results have important implications for the prediction of ice breakup and summer ice conditions, and the assessment of sea ice hazards during the summer shipping season.