Articles | Volume 11, issue 4
Research article
24 Jul 2017
Research article |  | 24 Jul 2017

Method to characterize directional changes in Arctic sea ice drift and associated deformation due to synoptic atmospheric variations using Lagrangian dispersion statistics

Jennifer V. Lukovich, Cathleen A. Geiger, and David G. Barber

Abstract. A framework is developed to assess the directional changes in sea ice drift paths and associated deformation processes in response to atmospheric forcing. The framework is based on Lagrangian statistical analyses leveraging particle dispersion theory which tells us whether ice drift is in a subdiffusive, diffusive, ballistic, or superdiffusive dynamical regime using single-particle (absolute) dispersion statistics. In terms of sea ice deformation, the framework uses two- and three-particle dispersion to characterize along- and across-shear transport as well as differential kinematic parameters. The approach is tested with GPS beacons deployed in triplets on sea ice in the southern Beaufort Sea at varying distances from the coastline in fall of 2009 with eight individual events characterized. One transition in particular follows the sea level pressure (SLP) high on 8 October in 2009 while the sea ice drift was in a superdiffusive dynamic regime. In this case, the dispersion scaling exponent (which is a slope between single-particle absolute dispersion of sea ice drift and elapsed time) changed from superdiffusive (α ∼ 3) to ballistic (α ∼ 2) as the SLP was rounding its maximum pressure value. Following this shift between regimes, there was a loss in synchronicity between sea ice drift and atmospheric motion patterns. While this is only one case study, the outcomes suggest similar studies be conducted on more buoy arrays to test momentum transfer linkages between storms and sea ice responses as a function of dispersion regime states using scaling exponents. The tools and framework developed in this study provide a unique characterization technique to evaluate these states with respect to sea ice processes in general. Application of these techniques can aid ice hazard assessments and weather forecasting in support of marine transportation and indigenous use of near-shore Arctic areas.

Short summary
In this study we develop a framework to characterize directional changes in sea ice drift and associated deformation in response to atmospheric forcing. Lagrangian dispersion statistics applied to ice beacons deployed in a triangular configuration in the Beaufort Sea capture a shift in ice dynamical regimes and local differences in deformation. This framework contributes to diagnostic development relevant for ice hazard assessments and forecasting required by indigenous communities and industry.