Articles | Volume 10, issue 6
Research article
09 Dec 2016
Research article |  | 09 Dec 2016

Quantification of ice production in Laptev Sea polynyas and its sensitivity to thin-ice parameterizations in a regional climate model

Oliver Gutjahr, Günther Heinemann, Andreas Preußer, Sascha Willmes, and Clemens Drüe

Abstract. The quantification of sea-ice production in the Laptev Sea polynyas is important for the Arctic sea-ice budget and the heat loss to the atmosphere. We estimated the ice production for the winter season 2007/2008 (November–April) based on simulations with the regional climate model COSMO-CLM at a horizontal resolution of 5 km and compared it to remote sensing estimates. A reference and five sensitivity simulations were performed with different assumptions on grid-scale and subgrid-scale ice thickness considered within polynyas, using a tile approach for fractional sea ice. In addition, the impact of heat loss on the atmospheric boundary layer was investigated.

About 29.1 km3 of total winter ice production was estimated for the reference simulation, which varies by up to +124 % depending on the thin-ice assumptions. For the most realistic assumptions based on remote sensing of ice thickness the ice production increases by +39 %. The use of the tile approach enlarges the area and enhances the magnitude of the heat loss from polynyas up to +110 % if subgrid-scale open water is assumed and by +20 % for realistic assumptions. This enhanced heat loss causes in turn higher ice production rates and stronger impact on the atmospheric boundary layer structure over the polynyas. The study shows that ice production is highly sensitive to the thin-ice parameterizations for fractional sea-ice cover. In summary, realistic ice production estimates could be retrieved from our simulations. Neglecting subgrid-scale energy fluxes might considerably underestimate the ice production in coastal polynyas, such as in the Laptev Sea, with possible consequences on the Arctic sea-ice budget.

Short summary
We estimated the formation of new sea ice within polynyas in the Laptev Sea (Siberia) with the regional climate model COSMO-CLM at 5 km horizontal resolution. Fractional sea ice and the representation of thin ice is often neglected in atmospheric models. Our study demonstrates, however, that the way thin ice in polynyas is represented in the model considerably affects the amount of newly formed sea-ice and the air–ice–ocean heat flux. Both processes impact the Arctic sea-ice budget.