Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences

Cryospheric and Polar Processes Seminar: Julienne Stroeve

Cryospheric and Polar Processes Seminar: Julienne Stroeve

Variability in the Antarctic Marginal Ice Zone and Pack Ice in Observations and NCAR CESM 

by Julienne Stroeve - NSIDC/CIRES, University of Colorado Boulder

Sea ice around Antarctica reached another record high extent in September 2014, recording a maximum extent of more than 20 million km2 for the first time since the modern satellite data record began in October 1978. This follows previous record maxima in 2012 and 2013, resulting in an overall increase in Antarctic September sea ice extent of 1.3% per decade since 1979. Several explanations have been put forward to explain the increasing trends, such as anomalous short-term wind patterns that both grow and spread out the ice, and freshening of the surface ocean layer from increased melting of floating ice from the continent. These positive trends in Antarctic sea ice are at odds with climate model forecasts that suggest the sea ice should be declining in response to increasing greenhouse gases and stratospheric ozone depletion.
While the reasons for the increases in total extent remain poorly understood, it is likely that these changes are not just impacting the total ice extent, but also the distribution of pack ice, the marginal ice zone (MIZ) and polynyas, with important ramifications for phytoplankton productivity that in turn impact zooplankton, fish, sea birds and marine mammals. This study evaluates changes in the distribution of the pack ice, polynyas and the marginal ice zone around Antarctica from two sea ice algorithms, the NASA Team and the Bootstrap. These results are further compared with climate model simulations from the CESM large ensemble output. Seasonal analysis of the different ice types using NASA Team and Bootstrap shows that during ice advance, the ice advances as pack ice, with a seasonal peak in September (broader peak for Bootstrap), and as the pack ice begins to retreat, it first converts to a wide area of MIZ, that reaches its peak around November (NASA Team) or December (Bootstrap). CESM also shows a similar seasonal cycle, with a peak in the pack ice in August, and a December/January peak in the MIZ. Seasonal variability and trends are further compared between the algorithms and the CESM large ensemble output. Results are highly sensitive to the sea ice algorithms used for analysis and regions chosen for evaluation, illustrating the different sensitivities of the algorithms and CESM to the varying influences of dynamic and thermodynamic processes.



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