Collections - Ice Thickness

The Canadian Ice Service Archive maintains the following Weekly Ice Thickness and On-Ice Snow Depth Measurements for Canadian Stations .

Ice Thickness Data

Ice Thickness Stations List

bullet Original Program Stations (1947-2002)
bullet New Arctic Program Stations (Fall 2002 - )

Other Data

New Arctic Ice Thickness Program

By the beginning of 2002 most stations from the original Ice Thickness program had stopped taking measurements.

Due to an increasing interest in updating this historical dataset to support climate change studies a new program was started in the fall of 2002. Several stations in the Canadian Arctic were re-opened and started taking measurements (see New Arctic Program Stations and data above).

About the Original Ice Thickness Program

This data collection contains ice thickness and snow depth measurements for 195 sites going back as far as 1947 for the first established stations in the Canadian Arctic (Eureka and Resolute). Record length varies from station to station with some of the Arctic stations exceeding 50 years of observations (see List of Ice Thickness Stations above), making these data potentially useful for climate change monitoring e.g. Brown and Cote (1992). In addition, a number of sites are colocated with AES hourly weather and radiation observing programs which means the data can be applied to a variety of research and modelling studies such as validation of sea ice models e.g. Flato and Brown (1996).

Most of the data in the current archive at the Canadian Ice Service have been collected by the Atmospheric Environment Program of Environment Canada, but some data are provided by other organizations such as the St-Lawrence Seaway Authority, Trent University and Queen’s University.

Measurements are taken approximately at the same location every year on a weekly basis starting after freeze-up when the ice is safe to walk on, and continuing until break-up or when the ice becomes unsafe. The location is selected close to shore, but over a depth of water which will exceed the maximum ice thickness. Ice thickness is measured to the nearest centimeter using either a special auger kit or a hot wire ice thickness gauge. The depth of snow on the ice at the location of ice thickness measurement is also measured and reported to the nearest centimeter. Measurements after 1982 include additional information (coded values as per code for additional information at bottom) such as character of ice surface, water features and method of observation.

These data have been used over the years for numerous climate research studies e.g.

Brown, R.D. and P. Cote, 1992: Interannual variability of landfast ice thickness in the Canadian High Arctic, 1950-89. Arctic, 45(3):273-284.

Flato, G.M. and R.D. Brown. 1996. Variability and climate sensitivity of landfast Arctic sea ice. J. Geophys. Res., 101(C10):25,767-25,777.

and has been used at CIS in the preparation of the following publications:

Ice thickness Climatology 1961 - 1990 Normals

Yearly booklets of Ice Thickness and Snow Depth from Freeze-up to Break-up (from 1958 to 1994)

Code for additional information

Ice thickness and snow depth are reported for each observations. After 1982 character of ice surface, water features and method of observation may also be reported using the following code:

(T) Character of ice surface (W) Water features (D) Method of Observation
0 = smooth 0 = no cracks or leads 0 = visually
1 = rafting (up to 1/10) 1 = few cracks 1 = ice auger kit
2 = rafting (2/10 to 3/10) 2 = numerous cracks 2 = other means
3 = rafting (4/10 to 10/10) 3 = few leads  
4 = ridging (up to 1/10) 4 = numerous leads  
5 = ridging (2/10 to 3/10)    
6 = ridging (4/10 to 10/10)    
7 = hummocking (up to 1/10)    
8 = hummocking (2/10 to 3/10)    
9 = hummocking (4/10 to 10/10)    
 Ice Archive