07 Dec 2021
07 Dec 2021
Status: a revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Aerial observations of sea ice break-up by ship waves

Elie Dumas-Lefebvre and Dany Dumont Elie Dumas-Lefebvre and Dany Dumont
  • Institut des sciences de la mer de Rimouski, Université du Québec à Rimouski, 310 allée des ursulines, Rimouski, QC, Canada G5L 3A1

Abstract. We provide the first in situ observations of floe size distributions (FSD) resulting from wave-induced sea ice break-up. In order to obtain such data, an unmanned aerial vehicle was deployed from the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Amundsen as it sailed in the vicinity of large ice floes in Baffin Bay and in the St. Lawrence Estuary, Canada. When represented as probability density functions weighted by the surface of ice floes, the FSDs exhibit a strong modal shape which confirms the preferential size hypothesis debated in the scientific community. Both FSDs are compared to a flexural rigidity length scale, which depends on ice properties, and with the wavelength scale. This comparison tends to show that the maximal distance between cracks is preferentially dictated by sea ice thickness and elasticity rather than by the wavelength. Temporal analysis of one fracture event is also done. Results show that the break-up advances almost as fast as the wave energy and that waves responsible for the break-up propagate following the mass loading dispersion relation. Moreover, our experiments show that thicker ice can attenuate wave less than thinner ice. This method thus provides key information on the wave-induced FSD, clarifies theoretical aspects from the construction of the FSD to its implementation in models and brings new knowledge regarding the temporal evolution of sea ice break-up.

Elie Dumas-Lefebvre and Dany Dumont

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on tc-2021-328', Anonymous Referee #1, 12 Dec 2021
    • AC3: 'Reply on RC1', Elie Dumas-Lefebvre, 14 Mar 2022
  • RC2: 'Comment on tc-2021-328', Timothy Williams, 05 Jan 2022
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC2', Elie Dumas-Lefebvre, 05 Jan 2022
      • RC3: 'Reply on AC1', Timothy Williams, 05 Jan 2022
        • AC2: 'Reply on RC3', Elie Dumas-Lefebvre, 14 Mar 2022

Elie Dumas-Lefebvre and Dany Dumont

Data sets

Wave-induced sea ice breakup in the Northern Baffin Bay Dumas-Lefebvre Elie, Dumont Dany

Wave-induced sea ice breakup experiment in the Gulf of Saint-Lawrence Dumas-Lefebvre Elie, Dumont Dany

Model code and software

breakup Dumas-Lefebvre Elie, Dumont Dany

Video supplement

Aerial footage of wave-induced sea ice breakup in the Gulf of Saint-Lawrence Dumas-Lefebvre Elie, Dumont Dany

Elie Dumas-Lefebvre and Dany Dumont


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Short summary
It is a known fact that ocean waves break sea ice but no one could ever capture it with a camera. This was until we brought a drone on a research vessel to break sea ice with ship-generated waves. The resulting footage allows for an in-depth analysis of breakup. We obtain that ice fragments have a thickness-dependent preferential size. More importantly, we demonstrated that this kind of experiment represents a very convenient way for studying wave-ice interaction and improve sea ice models.