Articles | Volume 12, issue 3
Research article
16 Mar 2018
Research article |  | 16 Mar 2018

Impact of rheology on probabilistic forecasts of sea ice trajectories: application for search and rescue operations in the Arctic

Matthias Rabatel, Pierre Rampal, Alberto Carrassi, Laurent Bertino, and Christopher K. R. T. Jones

Abstract. We present a sensitivity analysis and discuss the probabilistic forecast capabilities of the novel sea ice model neXtSIM used in hindcast mode. The study pertains to the response of the model to the uncertainty on winds using probabilistic forecasts of ice trajectories. neXtSIM is a continuous Lagrangian numerical model that uses an elasto-brittle rheology to simulate the ice response to external forces. The sensitivity analysis is based on a Monte Carlo sampling of 12 members. The response of the model to the uncertainties is evaluated in terms of simulated ice drift distances from their initial positions, and from the mean position of the ensemble, over the mid-term forecast horizon of 10 days. The simulated ice drift is decomposed into advective and diffusive parts that are characterised separately both spatially and temporally and compared to what is obtained with a free-drift model, that is, when the ice rheology does not play any role in the modelled physics of the ice. The seasonal variability of the model sensitivity is presented and shows the role of the ice compactness and rheology in the ice drift response at both local and regional scales in the Arctic. Indeed, the ice drift simulated by neXtSIM in summer is close to the one obtained with the free-drift model, while the more compact and solid ice pack shows a significantly different mechanical and drift behaviour in winter. For the winter period analysed in this study, we also show that, in contrast to the free-drift model, neXtSIM reproduces the sea ice Lagrangian diffusion regimes as found from observed trajectories. The forecast capability of neXtSIM is also evaluated using a large set of real buoy's trajectories and compared to the capability of the free-drift model. We found that neXtSIM performs significantly better in simulating sea ice drift, both in terms of forecast error and as a tool to assist search and rescue operations, although the sources of uncertainties assumed for the present experiment are not sufficient for complete coverage of the observed IABP positions.

Short summary
Large deviations still exist between sea ice forecasts and observations because of both missing physics in models and uncertainties on model inputs. We investigate how the new sea ice model neXtSIM is sensitive to uncertainties in the winds. We highlight and quantify the role of the internal forces in the ice on this sensitivity and show that neXtSIM is better at predicting sea ice drift than a free-drift (without internal forces) ice model and is a skilful tool for search and rescue operations.