Sea Ice

The Arctic climate, Arctic habitats, the lives of Indigenous People, and much of the geographic Arctic is defined by sea ice. This critical component is changing rapidly.  In lieu of conversations with bowhead whales, here we ask scientists and Iñupiaq Eskimos to tell us what they know about sea ice.

Featured Characters

Areas Wildlife Biologist, Alaska’s Department of Fish & Game

President of the Barrow Whaling Captains Association and Iñupiaq Elder 

Research Wildlfie Biologist, Polar Bears

Glaciologist & Professor 

Research Physical Scientist

Matt Druckenmiller

Matt Druckenmiller

Sea Ice Scientist

Matthew Druckenmiller is a sea ice scientist, who is originally from northern Pennsylvania. He grew up hunting and fishing with his father and grandfather, and became sensitive to observing human influences on natural systems. After studying geo-environmental engineering at Penn State University he moved to Alaska in 2004 with an interest in glaciers and Arctic environments. In 2011, he received his doctoral degree in geophysics from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where he studied the physics of coastal sea ice. He had the opportunity to base much of his work near coastal communities, such as Barrow, which enabled him to learn the importance of the sea ice and ocean to indigenous peoples and to appreciate the richness of their local environmental knowledge. Since leaving Alaska, Druckenmiller has been a postdoctoral research fellow at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado Boulder. Much of his work, which includes several collaborations with the North Slope Borough, is still based in the Arctic and focused on marine systems.

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Studying Ice Thickness

Matt talks to elementary students in the lower 48 about his work studying the thickness of ice

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Geoff Carroll

Geoff Carroll

Areas Wildlife Biologist, Alaska’s Department of Fish & Game

Geoff Carroll, Area Wildlife Biologist for Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game looks after the animals in a 56,000 sq mile region on the North Slope. He talks about his love of the Arctic, the sea ice, and his passion for sled dogs, and his early work with on the bowhead whale census. He also tells a few tales about polar bears and muskox. In 1986, he accompanied Will Steger on a National Geographic sponsored 56-day dog sled expedition to the North Pole.

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Love of the Arctic, the Sea Ice & the Freedom of Open Spaces but Big Changes Afoot

Geoff talks about the freedom of the open spaces but also about the changes that have come and are coming to the Arctic

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To the North Pole

In 1986 Geoff helped Will Steger and others reach the North Pole by sled. In the first month they had only gone 100 miles and soon had to shed a great amount of gear in order to reach the pole. From years of working with the Inupiaq Eskimos Geoff knew the ice conditions and helped read the changing ice so that the expedition could make it a successful trip.

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Sled Dogs

Geoff Carroll, area wildlife biologist for Alaska’s Dept of Fish and Game, hitches up his sled dogs. After taking his sled out onto the ocean ice, Geoff talks a little about Greenland Huskies like the ones he took to the North Pole with Will Steger in 1986.

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Eugene Brower

Eugene Brower

President of the Barrow Whaling Captains Association, Whaling Captain, and Iñupiaq Elder 

Inupiaq Eskimo elder and whaling captain Eugene Brower knows the ice in the Chukchi Sea off Barrow, Alaska, through many thousands of hours hunting the bowhead whale. Out there, he has seen some amazing things.

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Whaling Part One: Brower talks about growing up whaling

As a young boy Iñupiaq Eskimo elder Eugene Brower from Barrow, Alaska, moved up the ranks to Harpooner and finally to whaling captain. On a Sunday in March 2009, he took some time out to talk about whaling

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Breaking Trail & Finding Whales

Breaking trails to the open water during the spring bowhead whale hunt and finding whales

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Iñupiaq Eskimo Elder talks about ice fishing with his father

Eugene’s father was Harry Brower, Sr. (1924-1992), out on the ice.

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Amazing Story of a Polar Bear on the Ice

An amazing polar bear story, something Eugene saw with his father, Harry Brower, Sr. (1924-1992), out on the ice.

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The Story of a Rogue Walrus

A story about confronting a massive rogue walrus out on the ice while hunting whales, Barrow, Alaska

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Dr. Steve Amstrup

Dr. Steve Amstrup

Polar Bear expert, Research Wildlife Biologist, US Geological Survey, Anchorage, AK

Dr. Steven C. Amstrup, Polar Bear Scientist, talks about the state of polar bear research and relates that to climate change and how polar nations are working together to share information. Dr. Amstrup is a Research Wildlife Biologist with the United States Geological Survey at the Alaska Science Center, Anchorage, AK. He led the international team of researchers which prepared 9 reports that became the basis for the recent decision, by the Secretary of Interior, to list polar bears as a threatened species.

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Polar Bears & Climate Change

Alaska’s foremost polar bear expert talks about the effect of the retreating ice on bears

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Polar Bears and the Future

Research Wildlife Biologist, Alaska Science Center, USGS, Anchorage, Alaska. Dr. Amstrup talks about Polar Bear science and managing bears as the pole warms up and the ice retreats.

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Polar Bears & Loss of Habitat

The single biggest threat to polar bears is decline to their habitat that’s likely to occur because of Global Warming

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Dr. Mattew Sturm

Dr. Mattew Sturm

Research Physical Scientist conducing wide-ranging geophysical studies on snow in high latittudes, Fairbanks, AK

Dr. Sturm is responsible for conducting wide-ranging geophysical studies on snow in high latitudes. His work has taken him from the Antarctic to the Arctic, and he has been the leader of more than 30 expeditions in winter in pursuit of his science. He is based at the Alaska Office in Fairbanks, but collaborates with a wide range of scientists both at CRREL and elsewhere. His most recent work focuses on the role of snow cover on climate, with particular attention to snow ecology, and climate change resulting from snow-vegetation interactions.

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Why Study the Arctic

Matthew Sturm talks about the importance of studying the Arctic and how it is connected to the rest of the world

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Love of the Arctic

Matthew Sturm, ice and snow expert from Fairbanks, Alaska, talks about his love of the Arctic

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Long Traverses in the Arctic for Science

Matthew Sturm, ice and snow expert from Fairbanks, Alaska, talks about his long scientific trips across the Arctic on snowmachines.

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The Real Arctic

Matthew Sturm talks about the contradictions, the complexities of the Arctic

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Dr. Hajo Eicken

Dr. Hajo Eicken

Glaciologiist, Professor at the Geophysical Institute and the Department of Geology and Geophysics at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks

Dr. Hajo Eicken is Professor at the Geophysical Institute and the Department of Geology and Geophysics at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. Before joining the University of Alaska, Dr. Eicken was a senior scientist at the Alfred Wegener Institute where he was the head of a research group for sea ice physics and remote sensing. Dr. Eicken’s research interests include studies of the growth, evolution, and properties of sea ice in the Arctic and Antarctic. He is particularly interested in determining how microscopic and macroscopic properties affect larger-scale sea-ice processes and its role in the climate system. In Alaska, Dr. Eicken has spent time on the ice to learn more about the different uses of the sea ice environment and its role in polar ecosystems. Dr. Eicken has participated in several icebreaker expeditions in both hemispheres.

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Meet Dr. Hajo Eicken

Scientists study Sea Ice in various ways, which includes learning from local Natives who use the ice and know it differently than scientists

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Stories About Sea Ice and Polar Bears

Hajo Eicken explains what’s so fascinating about sea ice. He also talks about the wonderful collaboration of scientists in the study of sea ice. One great story here on his experience with polar bears feeding on beluga

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How is the Ice Cover Changing?

Hajo Eicken studies ice changes in different parts of the Arctic over decades. He studies how expansive ice is, how thick it is and how good it is at reflecting light (its albedo). He also relates his studies to how Native people are using the ice.

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Barrow Webcam Sea Ice Animation
Dr. Don Perovich

Dr. Don Perovich

Research Geophysicist

Dr. Don Perovich is a Research Geophysicist at the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory in Hanover NH and is an Adjunct Professor in the Thayer School of Engineering, Dartmouth College. His primary research interest is understanding the role of sea ice in the global climate system, with an emphasis on the heat budget of sea ice and the ice albedo feedback. He has participated in numerous Arctic field experiments including serving as the Chief Scientist of field campaigns studying the electromagnetic properties of sea ice (EMPOSI) and the surface heat budget of the Arctic (SHEBA).

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Meet Research Geophysicist Don Perovich

“Imagine what it would be like to walk on a frozen ocean, a vast beautiful wasteland…” Don talks of tipping points, “ice albedo feedback,” and the roll of clouds in the loss of sea ice.

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Do we know when the Arctic will be ice-free in September?

And how is the reduction of sea ice affecting human behavior? Don addresses the big issues of climate change in the Arctic.

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What is the Arctic? What defines it?

Don says, “It’s the perennial presence of ice….” Here Don talks about his love of the Arctic, the place and the people he works with.

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