Articles | Volume 6, issue 6
Research article
20 Dec 2012
Research article |  | 20 Dec 2012

Variability of sea ice deformation rates in the Arctic and their relationship with basin-scale wind forcing

A. Herman and O. Glowacki

Abstract. The temporal variability of the moments of probability distribution functions (pdfs) of total sea ice deformation rates in the Arctic is analyzed in the context of the basin-scale wind forcing acting on the ice. The pdfs are estimated for 594 satellite-derived sea ice deformation maps from 11 winter seasons between 1996/1997 and 2007/2008, provided by the RADARSAT Geophysical Processor System. The temporal scale analyzed equals 3 days. The moments of the pdfs, calculated for a range of spatial scales (12.5–900 km), have two dominating components of variability: a seasonal cycle, with deformation rates decreasing throughout winter towards a minimum in March; and a short-term, synoptic variability, strongly correlated with the area-averaged magnitude of the wind stress over the Arctic, estimated based on the NCEP-DOE Reanalysis-2 data (correlation coefficient of 0.71 for the mean deformation rate). Due to scaling properties of the moments, logarithms of higher moments are strongly correlated with the wind stress as well. Exceptions are observed only at small spatial scales, as a result of extreme deformation events, not directly associated with large-scale wind forcing. By repeating the analysis within regions of different sizes and locations, we show that the wind–ice deformation correlation is largest at the basin scale and decreases with decreasing size of the area of study. Finally, we suggest that a positive trend in seasonally averaged correlation between sea ice deformation rates and the wind forcing, present in the analyzed data, may be related to an observed decrease in the multi-year ice area in the Arctic, indicating possibly even stronger correlations in the future.