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Navy Supports Scientific Research at ICEX 2022

17 March 2022

From Lt. Seth Koenig, Commander, Submarine Force Atlantic Public Affairs

U.S. NAVY ICE CAMP QUEENFISH – The ice chunks drifting on Arctic waters are inhospitable and, for most people, inaccessible. As a result, gathering accurate information about the environment in this harsh – but important – region of the world is challenging for researchers.

So when the U.S. Navy launched its Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2022, the service continued its longstanding tradition of inviting scientists from a variety of civilian and military organizations to stay at - or send their equipment to - Ice Camp Queenfish to advance their Arctic research.

Ice Camp Queenfish is a temporary Navy camp built on an ice floe approximately 160 nautical miles off the coast of Alaska in the Beaufort Sea.

“ICEX provides a unique opportunity to conduct scientific research in the Arctic,” said Benjamin Evans, a scientist with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Lincoln Laboratory Advanced Undersea Systems and Technology Group.

“I’m not aware of another program that takes scientists from places like MIT up to the ocean system there to find out how and why changes are taking place in the Arctic,” he said.

Evans’ team plans to use seismometers, hydrophones, water column profilers and temperature sensing devices at Ice Camp Queenfish to study the conditions causing Arctic ice to break apart – a step toward better tracking the health of the Arctic environment and what influences it.

“We’d like to have a better understanding of what physical properties are contributing to ice breakup, and one step toward understanding what’s contributing to the ice breakup is monitoring where and when that fracturing is occurring,” he said.

In addition to the team from MIT, which is collaborating with a group from the University of New Hampshire, ICEX 2022 is supporting research projects by the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) and the Polar Science Center of the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory.

While the MIT team visited the ice camp in person, in other cases the exercise organizers deployed buoys or other research equipment from the Arctic Ocean location on the scientists' behalf.

Additionally, Arctic experts from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute continued their longstanding participation in the exercise.

“The Navy is proud to work with so many brilliant and talented scientists, representing some of the world’s most advanced civilian and military research institutions, at ICEX 2022,” said Rear Adm. Richard Seif, commander of the Navy’s Undersea Warfighting Development Center in Groton, Connecticut, and ranking officer at ICEX 2022.

“With its sub-zero temperatures, unforgiving weather and unpredictable ice cover, the Arctic region is an incredibly difficult and challenging place for researchers to work and gather data,” he said. “The Navy is uniquely positioned to provide the access necessary to allow these scientists to collect information about the Arctic and greatly advance human understanding of the planet we live on.”

Ann Hill, an Arctic scientist with the Navy’s Arctic Submarine Laboratory, said researchers can use satellite laser technology to try to measure and track sea ice remotely, but doing so accurately still requires scientists to go to the ice itself.

“There are a lot of assumptions about the conditions of the ice we have to make (using satellite technology),” she said. “We make assumptions about the density and temperature of the ice. Those are big assumptions to make over a broad area. There are a lot of remote sensing methods to measure sea ice and study sea ice, but at the end of the day, if you have ground truth measurements, it can be really valuable to validate those remotely sensed data.

ICEX 2022 is a joint combined exercise that takes place over the course of about three weeks north of the Arctic circle, with personnel stationed at the temporary Ice Camp Queenfish, as well as in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, and two operational U.S. Navy submarines. ICEX allows the Navy to assess its operational readiness in the Arctic, increase experience in the region, advance understanding of the Arctic environment, and continue to develop relationships with other services, allies and partner organizations.

ICEX 2022 is taking place in the Arctic region at the same time as U.S. Northern Command's Arctic Edge, a biennial exercise designed to provide realistic and effective training for participants using the premier training locations available throughout Alaska, ensuring the ability to rapidly deploy and operate in the Arctic. Arctic Edge takes place over the course of three weeks and will have approximately 1,000 participants, including U.S. and Canadian service members, U.S. Coast Guardsmen, and government employees from the U.S. Department of Defense and Canada’s Department of National Defence.

 

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