10 Feb 2023
 | 10 Feb 2023
Status: a revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Patterns of wintertime Arctic sea ice leads and their relation to winds and ocean currents

Sascha Willmes, Günther Heinemann, and Frank Schnaase

Abstract. We use a novel sea-ice lead climatology based on satellite observations with 1 km2 spatial resolution to identify predominant patterns in Arctic wintertime sea-ice leads. The causes for the observed spatial and temporal variabilities are investigated using ocean surface current velocities and eddy kinetic energies from an ocean model (FESOM) and winds from a regional climate model (CCLM) and ERA5 reanalysis, respectively. The presented investigation provides clear evidence for the influence of ocean depth and associated currents on the mechanic weakening of sea ice and the accompanied occurrence of sea-ice leads with their characteristic spatial patterns. While the ocean influence on lead dynamics acts on a rather long-term scale (seasonal to inter-annual), the influence of wind appears to trigger sea-ice lead dynamics on shorter time scales of weeks to months and is largely controlled by individual events causing increased divergence.

Sascha Willmes et al.

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-2023-22', Jonathan W. Rheinlænder, 09 Mar 2023
  • RC2: 'Comment on tc-2023-22', Daniel Watkins, 28 Mar 2023

Sascha Willmes et al.

Sascha Willmes et al.


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Short summary
Sea ice is an important constituent of the global climate system. We here use satellite data to identify regions in the Arctic where the sea ice breaks up in so-called leads (i.e. linear cracks) regularly during winter. This information is important because leads determine e.g., how much heat is exchanged between the ocean and the atmosphere. We here explain how these predominant sea-ice lead regions are favoured by specific ocean currents and wind fields.