The Cryosphere (Mar 2021)

Seasonal changes in sea ice kinematics and deformation in the Pacific sector of the Arctic Ocean in 2018/19

  • R. Lei,
  • M. Hoppmann,
  • B. Cheng,
  • G. Zuo,
  • G. Zuo,
  • D. Gui,
  • D. Gui,
  • Q. Cai,
  • H. J. Belter,
  • W. Yang

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 15
pp. 1321 – 1341


Read online

Arctic sea ice kinematics and deformation play significant roles in heat and momentum exchange between the atmosphere and ocean, and at the same time they have profound impacts on biological processes and biogeochemical cycles. However, the mechanisms regulating their changes on seasonal scales and their spatial variability remain poorly understood. Using position data recorded by 32 buoys in the Pacific sector of the Arctic Ocean (PAO), we characterized the spatiotemporal variations in ice kinematics and deformation for autumn–winter 2018/19, during the transition from a melting sea ice regime to a nearly consolidated ice pack. In autumn, the response of the sea ice drift to wind and inertial forcing was stronger in the southern and western PAO compared to the northern and eastern PAO. These spatial heterogeneities gradually weakened from autumn to winter, in line with the seasonal increases in ice concentration and thickness. Correspondingly, ice deformation became much more localized as the sea ice mechanical strength increased, with the area proportion occupied by the strongest (15 %) ice deformation decreasing by about 50 % from autumn to winter. During the freezing season, ice deformation rate in the northern PAO was about 2.5 times higher than in the western PAO and probably related to the higher spatial heterogeneity of oceanic and atmospheric forcing in the north. North–south and east–west gradients in sea ice kinematics and deformation within the PAO, as observed especially during autumn in this study, are likely to become more pronounced in the future as a result of a longer melt season, especially in the western and southern parts.