The Submarine Arctic Science Program, SCICEX, is a federal interagency collaboration among the operational Navy, research agencies, and the marine research community to use nuclear-powered submarines for scientific studies of the Arctic Ocean. Unlike surface ships, submarines have the unique ability to operate and take measurements regardless of sea ice cover, weather conditions, and time of year. This allows for a broad and comprehensive investigation of an entire ocean basin. The goal of the program is to acquire comprehensive data about Arctic sea ice, water properties (biological, chemical, and hydrographic), and water depth (bathymetry) to improve our understanding of the Arctic Ocean basin and its role in the Earth's climate system.

SCICEX articles in the Spring 2015 issue of ARCUS's Witness the Arctic

Polar Bears with Sub Glacier Photograph Collection Example World Glacier Inventory Map Canadian Ice Service Sea Ice Charts Google Earth Example
  • Breaking the Ice

    Polar bears investigate a U.S. Navy submarine that has just surfaced through a lead or crack in the Arctic sea ice. Courtesy ASL.

  • XCTD Launch

    Crewman "Ted" Groustra loads an XCTD for launching. Courtesy ASL

  • Science Lab on a Sub

    The science laboratory (a.k.a. the torpedo room) on the USS Hawkbill during SCICEX-99. Courtesy ASL.

  • A Porthole to Another World

    View of the science lab through the door porthole. Courtesy ASL.

  • Sub at the Ice Camp

    Crew members of an ice camp clear the sea ice from the hatch of a submarine that has just broken through the ice. Courtesy ASL.

  • Collecting Water Samples

    Oceanographer Steve Okkonen (UAF) discussing water samples with a colleague. Courtesy ASL.

  • National Ice Center Sea Ice Charts

    Arctic sea ice concentration climatology derived from the NIC operational ice-chart time series.

    Learn more...

SCICEX was officially launched in 1994 after a successful feasibility test in 1993 where civilian scientists joined Navy personnel on a submarine to acquire scientific data. From 1995–1999, five more dedicated science cruises were completed aboard nuclear-powered submarines. Since then, a modified approach has been taken, where some time is set aside for the collection of unclassified scientific data during otherwise classified submarine exercises. These are known as Science Accommodation Missions (SAMs) which are facilitated by the Arctic Submarine Lab (ASL). Guidance on data collection priorities during a SAM is provided in the SCICEX Phase II Science Plan. The most recent SAM took place in November 2012. See a list of all the SCICEX Cruise Dates.

This site is supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) award number 0632296 for the Arctic Observing Network (AON) and by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and the U.S. Arctic Research Commission (USARC). SCICEX is a Navy contribution to AON, the observational change component of a federal interagency committee called the Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH).


Current ONR Awards

SCICEX Data Stewardship
PI: Florence Fetterer
Institution: University of Colorado Boulder

Open-water Test of Submarine-launched Expendable CTDs
PI: Jeff Gossett
Institution: US Navy Arctic Submarine Laboratory

Validation of Biogeochemical Measurements in the Arctic Ocean from Virginia and Sea Wolf Class Submarines
PI: Ray Sambrotto
Institution: Columbia University

Study of the impact of submarine operations on sea-ice draft measurements
PI: Mark Wensnahan
Institution: University of Washington


SCICEX Documents

Phase II Science Plan (2010)

Phase II Memorandum of Agreement (2000)

Original Memorandum of Agreement (1994)

Citing These Data

We kindly request that you cite the use of this data set in a publication using the following citation.

SCICEX Science Advisory Committee. 2009, updated 2014. SCICEX: Science Ice Exercise Data Collection. Boulder, Colorado USA: National Snow and Ice Data Center. http://dx.doi.org/10.7265/N5930R3Z.

For details on citing individual data products within the SCICEX collection, see suggestions on Citing These Data.