Insights on Arctic Sea Ice Processes from New Seafloor and Coastline Mapping
Wednesday, 17 December 2014: 1:55 PM
The seafloor can exert a significant control on Arctic sea ice patterns by guiding the distribution of ocean water masses and river discharge in the Arctic Ocean. Satellite observations of sea ice and surface temperature are used together with bathymetry data to understand dynamic and thermodynamic processes of sea ice. In particular, data from satellite radars, including scatterometer and synthetic aperture radar (SAR) instruments, are used to identify and map sea ice with different spatial and temporal resolutions across the Arctic. Data from a satellite spectroradiometer, such as MODIS, are used to accurately measure surface temperature under clear sky conditions. For seafloor measurements, advances have been made with new observations surveyed to modern standards in different regions of the Arctic, enabling the production of an improved bathymetry dataset, such as the International Bathymetric Chart of the Arctic Ocean Version 3.0 (IBCAO 3.0) released in 2012. The joint analyses of these datasets reveal that the seafloor can govern warm- and cold-water distribution and thereby dictate sea ice patterns on the sea surface from small local scales to a large regional scale extending over thousands of km. Satellite results show that warm river waters can intrude into the Arctic Ocean and affect sea ice melt hundreds of km away from the river mouths. The Arctic rivers bring significant heat as their waters come from sources across vast watersheds influenced by warm continental climate effects in summertime. In the case of the Mackenzie River, results from the analysis with the new IBCAO 3.0 indicated that the formation and break-up of landfast sea ice is related to the depth and not the slope of the seafloor. In turn, such ice processes can impact the discharge and distribution of warm river waters and influence the melting of sea ice. Animations of satellite observations of sea ice overlaid on both the old and new versions of IBCAO will be presented to illustrate science advances enabled by the new IBCAO 3.0. Furthermore, a new coastline derived from high-resolution SAR data shows accurate mapping of coastal characteristics including small islands and river mouths. The new coastline can provide more details to investigate sea ice processes in the littoral zones, and also help improve future bathymetry and topography datasets.