Top Sounder Ice Penetration

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
David L Porter, Stuart A Goemmer and John H Sweeney, Applied Physics Laboratory Johns Hopkins, Laurel, MD, United States
Ice draft measurements are made as part of normal operations for all US Navy submarines operating in the Arctic Ocean. The submarine ice draft data are unique in providing high resolution measurements over long transects of the ice covered ocean. The data has been used to document a multidecadal drop in ice thickness, and for validating and improving numerical sea-ice models.

A submarine upward-looking sonar draft measurement is made by a sonar transducer mounted in the sail or deck of the submarine. An acoustic beam is transmitted upward through the water column, reflecting off the bottom of the sea ice and returning to the transducer. Ice thickness is estimated as the difference between the ship’s depth (measured by pressure) and the acoustic range to the bottom of the ice estimated from the travel time of the sonar pulse. Digital recording systems can provide the return off the water-ice interface as well as returns that have penetrated the ice. Typically, only the first return from the ice hull is analyzed. Information regarding ice flow interstitial layers provides ice age information and may possibly be derived with the entire return signal. The approach being investigated is similar to that used in measuring bottom sediment layers and will involve measuring the echo level from the first interface, solving the reflection loss from that transmission, and employing reflection loss versus impedance mismatch to ascertain ice structure information.