Articles | Volume 11, issue 4
Research article
04 Jul 2017
Research article |  | 04 Jul 2017

Sea-ice deformation in a coupled ocean–sea-ice model and in satellite remote sensing data

Gunnar Spreen, Ron Kwok, Dimitris Menemenlis, and An T. Nguyen

Abstract. A realistic representation of sea-ice deformation in models is important for accurate simulation of the sea-ice mass balance. Simulated sea-ice deformation from numerical simulations with 4.5, 9, and 18 km horizontal grid spacing and a viscous–plastic (VP) sea-ice rheology are compared with synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite observations (RGPS, RADARSAT Geophysical Processor System) for the time period 1996–2008. All three simulations can reproduce the large-scale ice deformation patterns, but small-scale sea-ice deformations and linear kinematic features (LKFs) are not adequately reproduced. The mean sea-ice total deformation rate is about 40 % lower in all model solutions than in the satellite observations, especially in the seasonal sea-ice zone. A decrease in model grid spacing, however, produces a higher density and more localized ice deformation features. The 4.5 km simulation produces some linear kinematic features, but not with the right frequency. The dependence on length scale and probability density functions (PDFs) of absolute divergence and shear for all three model solutions show a power-law scaling behavior similar to RGPS observations, contrary to what was found in some previous studies. Overall, the 4.5 km simulation produces the most realistic divergence, vorticity, and shear when compared with RGPS data. This study provides an evaluation of high and coarse-resolution viscous–plastic sea-ice simulations based on spatial distribution, time series, and power-law scaling metrics.