A prognostic model of the sea-ice floe size and thickness distribution
- School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA
Abstract. Sea ice exhibits considerable seasonal and longer-term variations in extent, concentration, thickness, and age, and is characterized by a complex and continuously changing distribution of floe sizes and thicknesses, particularly in the marginal ice zone (MIZ). Models of sea ice used in current climate models keep track of its concentration and of the distribution of ice thicknesses, but do not account for the floe size distribution and its potential effects on air–sea exchange and sea-ice evolution. Accurately capturing sea-ice variability in climate models may require a better understanding and representation of the distribution of floe sizes and thicknesses. We develop and demonstrate a model for the evolution of the joint sea-ice floe size and thickness distribution that depends on atmospheric and oceanic forcing fields. The model accounts for effects due to multiple processes that are active in the MIZ and seasonal ice zones: freezing and melting along the lateral side and base of floes, mechanical interactions due to floe collisions (ridging and rafting), and sea-ice fracture due to wave propagation in the MIZ. The model is then examined and demonstrated in a series of idealized test cases.