Regime Change of Ice Draft in Nares Strait to the West of Greenland 2003 to 2009

Friday, 19 December 2014
Patricia A Ryan1, Andreas Muenchow2 and Helga Huntley1, (1)University of Delaware, Newark, DE, United States, (2)Univ Delaware, Newark, DE, United States
The last of remaining multi-year ice exits the Arctic Ocean via Nares Strait to the west of northern Greenland. Measuring ice draft and velocity directly, we maintained moored sensors in Nares Strait from 2003 through 2009. Two ice profiling sonars measured acoustic travel times from about 100-m depth to the bottom of the sea ice. Estimates of ice draft result, if vertically averaged density, speed of sound, and depth of the sensor are known. We use concurrently measured temperature, salinity, and pressure at nearby mooring locations for those properties at daily time scales. Sensitivity tests reveal that our ice draft estimates are accurate to within 0.1 m.

With ice drafts sampled at 15 second intervals, we construct ice draft probability density functions to define ice categories and to compare these at inter-annual and seasonal time sales. Categories are open water (no ice), thin ice (< 0.5 m), first year ice (0.5- 2 m; FYI), multi year ice (>2 m; MYI). FYI dominated the ice draft distribution from 2003 to 2006 when it was observed about half of the time. It diminished to ~20% from 2006 to 2009 when much FYI was replaced by a combination of thin ice and MYI. We interpret this finding as a transition towards a more dynamic and advective ice regime in Nares Strait.

At seasonal time scales we found the largest ice drafts always during the period prior to prolonged periods of zero ice velocity, that is, the onset of landfast ice conditions. The duration of this landfast season reduced from more than 180 days per year on average for the 2003-06 period to less than 20 days per year on average for the 2006-09 period. Implications on ice flux are profound as the transition from landfast to mobile ice conditions enhances both local wind forcing, local ice formation (thin ice), and ice export. We emphasize that this transition precedes the record setting Arctic ice minimum in the summer of 2007.