Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2021-249
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2021-249

  16 Aug 2021

16 Aug 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

A new sea ice state dependent parameterization for the free drift of sea ice

Charles Brunette1, L. Bruno Tremblay1, and Robert Newton2 Charles Brunette et al.
  • 1Department of Atmospheric & Oceanic Sciences, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada
  • 2Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, Palisades, NY, USA

Abstract. Free drift estimates of sea ice motion are necessary to produce a seamless observational record combining buoy and satellite-derived sea ice motion vectors. We develop a new parameterization for the free drift of sea ice based on wind forcing, wind turning angle, sea ice state variables (concentration and thickness) and ocean current (as a residual). Building on the fact that the spatially varying standard wind-ice transfer coefficient (considering only surface wind stress) has a structure as the spatial distribution of sea ice thickness, we introduce a wind-ice transfer coefficient that scales linearly with thickness. Results show a mean error of −0.5 cm/s (low-speed bias) and a root-mean-square error of 5.1 cm/s, considering daily buoy drift data as truth. This represents a 31 % reduction of the error on drift speed compared to the free drift estimates used in the Polar Pathfinder dataset. The thickness-dependent wind transfer coefficient provides an improved seasonality and long-term trend of the sea ice drift speed, with a minimum (maximum) drift speed in May (October), compared to July (January) for the constant wind transfer coefficient parameterizations which simply follow the peak in mean surface wind stresses. The trend in sea ice drift in this new model is +0.45 cm/s decade−1 compared with +0.39 cm/s decade−1 from the buoy observations, whereas there is essentially no trend in the standard free drift parameterization (−0.01 cm/s decade−1) or the Polar Pathfinder free drifts (−0.03 cm/s decade−1). The wind turning angle that minimize the cost function is equal of 25°, with a mean and root-mean square error of +2.6° and 51° on the direction of the drift, respectively. The residual from the minimization procedure (i.e. the ocean currents) resolves key large scale features such as the Beaufort Gyre and Transpolar Drift Stream, and is in good agreement with ocean state estimates from the ECCO, GLORYS and PIOMAS ice-ocean reanalyses, and geostrophic currents from dynamical ocean topography, with a root-mean-square difference of 2.4, 2.9, 2.6 and 3.8 cm/s, respectively. Finally, a repeat of the analysis on a two sub-section of the time series (pre- and post-2000) clearly shows the acceleration of the Beaufort Gyre (particularly along the Alaskan coastline) and an expansion of the gyre in the post-2000 concurrent with a thinning of the sea ice cover and observations acceleration of the ice drift speed and ocean current. This new dataset is publicly available for complementing merged observations-based sea ice drift datasets that includes satellite and buoy drift records.

Charles Brunette et al.

Status: open (until 26 Oct 2021)

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Charles Brunette et al.

Charles Brunette et al.

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Short summary
Sea ice motion is a versatile parameter for monitoring the Arctic climate system. In this contribution, we use data from drifting buoys, winds and ice thickness to parameterize the motion of sea ice in a free drift regime – i.e. flowing freely in response to the forcing from the winds and ocean currents. We show that including a dependence on sea ice thickness and taking into account a climatology of the surface ocean circulation significantly improves the quality of sea ice motion estimates.