Variability and trends in Laptev Sea ice outflow between 1992–2011
Abstract. Variability and trends in seasonal and interannual ice area export out of the Laptev Sea between 1992 and 2011 are investigated using satellite-based sea ice drift and concentration data. We found an average total winter (October to May) ice area transport across the northern and eastern Laptev Sea boundaries (NB and EB) of 3.48 × 105 km2. The average transport across the NB (2.87 × 105 km2) is thereby higher than across the EB (0.61 × 105 km2), with a less pronounced seasonal cycle. The total Laptev Sea ice area flux significantly increased over the last decades (0.85 × 105 km2 decade−1, p > 0.95), dominated by increasing export through the EB (0.55 × 105 km2 decade−1, p > 0.90), while the increase in export across the NB is smaller (0.3 × 105 km2 decade−1) and statistically not significant. The strong coupling between across-boundary SLP gradient and ice drift velocity indicates that monthly variations in ice area flux are primarily controlled by changes in geostrophic wind velocities, although the Laptev Sea ice circulation shows no clear relationship with large-scale atmospheric indices. Also there is no evidence of increasing wind velocities that could explain the overall positive trends in ice export. The increased transport rates are rather the consequence of a changing ice cover such as thinning and/or a decrease in concentration. The use of a back-propagation method revealed that most of the ice that is incorporated into the Transpolar Drift is formed during freeze-up and originates from the central and western part of the Laptev Sea, while the exchange with the East Siberian Sea is dominated by ice coming from the central and southeastern Laptev Sea. Furthermore, our results imply that years of high ice export in late winter (February to May) have a thinning effect on the ice cover, which in turn preconditions the occurence of negative sea ice extent anomalies in summer.