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Keywords:

  • Arctic;
  • ice thickness

[1] A transect of the Arctic Ocean by the British submarine Tireless in March 2007 enabled the thickness characteristics of the ice cover to be measured during the winter immediately preceding the exceptional retreat of summer 2007. In this paper we report on mean and modal drafts, probability density functions of draft, and the frequency and depth distribution of pressure ridges, and we compare results with those from an earlier submarine cruise in winter 2004 which covered part of the same area. In the region from north of Fram Strait to Ellesmere Island (about 85°N, 0–70°W) we find no change in mean drafts between 2004 and 2007 though there is a change in ice composition, with more ridging in 2007 but a lesser modal draft. This agrees with the observations of younger ice being driven toward Fram Strait in 2007. The region north of Ellesmere Island continues to be a “redoubt” containing more thick deformed multiyear ice than any other part of the transect. In the west the submarine profiled extensively under the SEDNA ice camp at 73°N 145°W. This is in the same location as the 1976 AIDJEX ice camp and a sonar survey done by a U.S. submarine in April 1976. We found that a large decrease in mean draft had occurred (32%) over 31 years and that in 2007 the SEDNA region contained the thinnest ice of any part of the Arctic surveyed by the submarine; this was a region from which the ice completely retreated during the subsequent summer of 2007.