A Lagrangian analysis of sea ice dynamics in the Arctic

Monday, 15 December 2014
Sandor Szanyi1, Jennifer Verlaine Lukovich2, George Haller1 and David G Barber2, (1)ETH Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland, (2)University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB, Canada
Recent studies have highlighted acceleration in sea ice drift and deformation in the Arctic over the last several decades, underlining the need for improved understanding of sea ice dynamics and dispersion. In this study we present Lagrangian diagnostics to quantify changes in the dynamical characteristics of the Arctic sea ice cover from 1979 to 2012 during the transition from a predominantly multi-year to a first-year ice regime. Examined in particular is the evolution in finite-time Lyapunov exponents (FTLEs), which monitor the rate at which neighboring particle trajectories diverge, and stretching rates throughout the Arctic. In this analysis we compute FTLEs for the Arctic ice drift field using National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) Polar Pathfinder Daily 25 km EASE-Grid weekly sea ice motion vectors for the annual cycle beginning both from the sea ice minimum in September, and maximum in March. Sensitivity analyses show that maximal FTLEs, or ridges, are robust even with the introduction of significant noise. Probability density functions and mean values of FTLEs show a trend towards higher FTLE values characteristic of increased mixing in the Arctic in the last decade, in keeping with a transition to a weaker, thinner ice cover.