Exploring the utility of quantitative network design in evaluating Arctic sea ice thickness sampling strategies
Abstract. We present a quantitative network design (QND) study of the Arctic sea ice–ocean system using a software tool that can evaluate hypothetical observational networks in a variational data assimilation system. For a demonstration, we evaluate two idealised flight transects derived from NASA's Operation IceBridge airborne ice surveys in terms of their potential to improve 10-day to 5-month sea ice forecasts. As target regions for the forecasts we select the Chukchi Sea, an area particularly relevant for maritime traffic and offshore resource exploration, as well as two areas related to the Barnett ice severity index (BSI), a standard measure of shipping conditions along the Alaskan coast that is routinely issued by ice services. Our analysis quantifies the benefits of sampling upstream of the target area and of reducing the sampling uncertainty. We demonstrate how observations of sea ice and snow thickness can constrain ice and snow variables in a target region and quantify the complementarity of combining two flight transects. We further quantify the benefit of improved atmospheric forecasts and a well-calibrated model.