Characterizing Arctic sea ice topography using high-resolution IceBridge data
Abstract. We present an analysis of Arctic sea ice topography using high-resolution, three-dimensional surface elevation data from the Airborne Topographic Mapper, flown as part of NASA's Operation IceBridge mission. Surface features in the sea ice cover are detected using a newly developed surface feature picking algorithm. We derive information regarding the height, volume and geometry of surface features from 2009 to 2014 within the Beaufort/Chukchi and Central Arctic regions. The results are delineated by ice type to estimate the topographic variability across first-year and multi-year ice regimes.
The results demonstrate that Arctic sea ice topography exhibits significant spatial variability, mainly driven by the increased surface feature height and volume (per unit area) of the multi-year ice that dominates the Central Arctic region. The multi-year ice topography exhibits greater interannual variability compared to the first-year ice regimes, which dominates the total ice topography variability across both regions. The ice topography also shows a clear coastal dependency, with the feature height and volume increasing as a function of proximity to the nearest coastline, especially north of Greenland and the Canadian Archipelago. A strong correlation between ice topography and ice thickness (from the IceBridge sea ice product) is found, using a square-root relationship. The results allude to the importance of ice deformation variability in the total sea ice mass balance, and provide crucial information regarding the tail of the ice thickness distribution across the western Arctic. Future research priorities associated with this new data set are presented and discussed, especially in relation to calculations of atmospheric form drag.