National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


Satellite view of the Chukchi Sea warming as the sea ice melts away for the summer (2012).


The exchange of heat and light through the Chukchi Sea – especially in the zone between the sea surface and about 20 meters depth – is one of the prime regulators of the Arctic climate, its sea ice cover, and its ecosystems. Yet for polar scientists, the Chukchi Sea and other seasonally ice-free marginal seas are among the most challenging regions to study. This is because for much of the year the sea ice is not stable enough to deploy equipment on and it can easily wreak havoc on most instruments in the water. Ships and satellites only provide limited access to this domain, and the progress of research is thus impeded by the lack of observations.

This project aims to bridge the upper ocean observation gap in the Arctic marginal seas through the deployment of innovative new autonomous platforms like Marine Robotic Vehicles (MRV) Air-Launched Autonomous Micro-Observer (ALAMO) float, in combination with a more traditional suite of weather and ocean-sensing instrumentation carried aboard a specially-modified NOAA Twin Otter aircraft. Together these systems promote the synthesis of the ocean and atmospheric data that span the range from satellite remote-sensing to deep-sea oceanographic moorings. The flexibility and endurance of the Twin Otter means that autonomous floats can be launched and data rapidly collected over a wide area, when and where needed.

The scientific objectives of the 2016 experiment include monitoring rates of upper ocean temperature change and water mass transformation over an entire summer season, from the time the sea ice begins to retreat in the spring through freeze-up in the autumn. With this data we will also be able to better interpret the relationship between satellite- and aircraft-based radiometer measurements of the ocean’s skin temperature and the temperature of the ocean beneath. Real-time data will also be assimilated in weather and sea-ice forecast models. In addition, a number of engineering research and development studies designed to explore the capabilities of the ALAMO float will be carried out.    

Open science

Arctic Heat is an open science experiment. We are publishing data generated by the project on this website and on the Global Telecommunications System (GTS) as soon as it is collected. This is being done to facilitate timely observations for use in weather and sea-ice forecasts, to make data readily accessible for model and reanalysis assimilation, and to support ongoing research activities across disciplines.

We request that researchers notify us at when they use these data, and to cite this website as appropriate: Wood, K.R., S.R. Jayne, C.W. Mordy, and J.E. Overland. 2016. Arctic Heat Open Science Experiment. Retrieved from


Arctic Heat is a joint effort of NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) Arctic Research, the Innovative Technology for Arctic Exploration (ITAE) program, the ALAMO development group at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), and the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean (JISAO) at the University of Washington.

About the Banner Image:  This is a MODIS-Aqua SST-True Color composite image for [22-24 July 2012]. In the Chukchi Sea sea-surface temperature (SST) indicated by satellite radiometry depends on the (undetected) characteristics of underlying ocean water. Warmer SSTs tend to be associated with fresher surface-stratified layers.