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R. Kwok

Abstract

The sea ice motion, area export, and deformation of the Ross Sea ice cover are examined with satellite passive microwave and RADARSAT observations. The record of high-resolution synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data, from 1998 and 2000, allows the estimation of the variability of ice deformation at the small scale (∼10 km) and to assess the quality of the longer record of passive microwave ice motion. Daily and subdaily deformation fields and RADARSAT imagery highlight the variability of motion and deformation in the Ross Sea. With the passive microwave ice motion, the area export at a flux gate positioned between Cape Adare and Land Bay is estimated. Between 1992 and 2003, a positive trend can be seen in the winter (March–November) ice area flux that has a mean of 990 × 103 km2 and ranges from a low of 600 × 103 km2 in 1992 to a peak of 1600 × 103 km2 in 2001. In the mean, the southern Ross Sea produces almost twice its own area of sea ice during the winter. Cross-gate sea level pressure (SLP) gradients explain ∼60% of the variance in the ice area flux. A positive trend in this gradient, from reanalysis products, suggests a “spinup” of the Ross Sea Gyre over the past 12 yr. In both the NCEP–NCAR and ERA-40 surface pressure fields, longer-term trends in this gradient and mean SLP between 1979 and 2002 are explored along with positive anomalies in the monthly cross-gate SLP gradient associated with the positive phase of the Southern Hemisphere annular mode and the extrapolar Southern Oscillation.

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R. Kwok

Abstract

Twenty-nine years of Arctic sea ice outflow into the Greenland and Barents Seas are summarized. Outflow is computed at three passages: Fram Strait, between Svalbard and Franz Josef Land (S–FJL), and between Franz Josef Land and Severnaya Zemlya (FJL–SZ). Ice drift at the flux gates has been reprocessed using a consistent and updated time series of passive microwave brightness temperature and ice concentration (IC) fields. Over the record, the mean annual area outflow at the Fram Strait is 706(113) × 103 km2; it was highest in 1994/95 (1002 × 103 km2) when the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) index was near its 29-yr peak. The strength of the “Transpolar Drift Stream” (TDS) was high during the late 1980s through the mid-1990s. There is no statistically significant trend in the Fram Strait area flux. Even though there is a positive trend in the gradient of cross-strait sea level pressure, the outflow has not increased because of a negative trend in IC. Seasonally, the area outflow during recent summers (in 2005 and 2007) has been higher (> 2σ from the mean) than average, contributing to the decline of summer ice coverage. Without updated ice thickness estimates, the best estimate of mean annual volume flux (between 1991 and 1999) stands at ∼2200 km3 yr−1 (∼0.07 Sv: Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1). Net annual outflow at the S–FJL passage is 37(39) × 103 km2; the large outflow of multiyear ice in 2002–03, marked by an area and volume outflow of 141 × 103 km2 and ∼300 km3, was unusual over the record. At the FJL–SZ passage, there is a mean annual inflow of 103(93) × 103 km2 of seasonal ice into the Arctic. While the recent pattern of winter Arctic circulation and sea level pressure (SLP) has nearly reverted to its conditions typical of the 1980s, the summer has not. Compared to the 1980s, the recent summer SLP distributions show much lower SLPs (2–3 hPa) over much of the Arctic. Overall, there is a strengthening of the summer TDS. Examination of the exchanges between the Pacific and Atlantic sectors shows a long-term trend that favors the summer advection of sea ice toward the Atlantic associated with a shift in the mean summer circulation patterns.

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R. Kwok and J. C. Comiso

Abstract

The anomalies in the climate and sea ice cover of the Southern Ocean and their relationships with the Southern Oscillation (SO) are investigated using a 17-yr dataset from 1982 to 1998. The polar climate anomalies are correlated with the Southern Oscillation index (SOI) and the composites of these anomalies are examined under the positive (SOI > 0), neutral (0 > SOI > −1), and negative (SOI < −1) phases of SOI. The climate dataset consists of sea level pressure, wind, surface air temperature, and sea surface temperature fields, while the sea ice dataset describes its extent, concentration, motion, and surface temperature. The analysis depicts, for the first time, the spatial variability in the relationship of the above variables with the SOI. The strongest correlation between the SOI and the polar climate anomalies are found in the Bellingshausen, Amundsen, and Ross Seas. The composite fields reveal anomalies that are organized in distinct large-scale spatial patterns with opposing polarities at the two extremes of SOI, and suggest oscillations that are closely linked to the SO. Within these sectors, positive (negative) phases of the SOI are generally associated with lower (higher) sea level pressure, cooler (warmer) surface air temperature, and cooler (warmer) sea surface temperature in these sectors. Associations between these climate anomalies and the behavior of the Antarctic sea ice cover are evident. Recent anomalies in the sea ice cover that are clearly associated with the SOI include the following: the record decrease in the sea ice extent in the Bellingshausen Sea from mid-1988 to early 1991; the relationship between Ross Sea SST and the ENSO signal, and reduced sea ice concentration in the Ross Sea; and the shortening of the ice season in the eastern Ross Sea, Amundsen Sea, far western Weddell Sea and lengthening of the ice season in the western Ross Sea, Bellinghausen Sea, and central Weddell Sea gyre during the period 1988–94. Four ENSO episodes over the last 17 years contributed to a negative mean in the SOI (−0.5). In each of these episodes, significant retreats in ice cover of the Bellingshausen and Amundsen Seas were observed showing a unique association of this region of the Antarctic with the Southern Oscillation.

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B. Curry, C. M. Lee, B. Petrie, R. E. Moritz, and R. Kwok

Abstract

Davis Strait is a primary gateway for freshwater exchange between the Arctic and North Atlantic Oceans including freshwater contributions from west Greenland and Canadian Arctic Archipelago glacial melt. Data from six years (2004–10) of continuous measurements collected by a full-strait moored array and concurrent high-resolution Seaglider surveys are used to estimate volume and liquid freshwater transports through Davis Strait, with respective annual averages of −1.6 ± 0.5 Sverdrups (Sv; 1 Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1) and −93 ± 6 mSv (negative sign indicates southward transport). Sea ice export contributes an additional −10 ± 1 mSv of freshwater transport, estimated using satellite ice area transport and moored upward-looking sonar ice thickness measurements. Interannual and annual variability of the net transports are large, with average annual volume and liquid freshwater transport standard deviations of 0.7 Sv and 17 mSv and with interannual standard deviations of 0.3 Sv and 15 mSv. Moreover, there are no clear trends in the net transports over the 6-yr period. However, salinity in the upper 250 m between Baffin Island and midstrait decreases starting in September 2009 and remains below average through August 2010, but appears to return to normal by the end of 2010. This freshening event, likely caused by changes in arctic freshwater storage, is not apparent in the liquid freshwater transport time series due to a reduction in southward volume transport in 2009–10. Reanalysis of Davis Strait mooring data from the period 1987–90, compared to the 2004–10 measurements, reveals less arctic outflow and warmer, more saline North Atlantic inflow during the most recent period.

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Paul R. Holland, Nicolas Bruneau, Clare Enright, Martin Losch, Nathan T. Kurtz, and Ron Kwok

Abstract

Unlike the rapid sea ice losses reported in the Arctic, satellite observations show an overall increase in Antarctic sea ice concentration over recent decades. However, observations of decadal trends in Antarctic ice thickness, and hence ice volume, do not currently exist. In this study a model of the Southern Ocean and its sea ice, forced by atmospheric reanalyses, is used to assess 1992–2010 trends in ice thickness and volume. The model successfully reproduces observations of mean ice concentration, thickness, and drift, and decadal trends in ice concentration and drift, imparting some confidence in the hindcasted trends in ice thickness. The model suggests that overall Antarctic sea ice volume has increased by approximately 30 km3 yr−1 (0.4% yr−1) as an equal result of areal expansion (20 × 103 km2 yr−1 or 0.2% yr−1) and thickening (1.5 mm yr−1 or 0.2% yr−1). This ice volume increase is an order of magnitude smaller than the Arctic decrease, and about half the size of the increased freshwater supply from the Antarctic Ice Sheet. Similarly to the observed ice concentration trends, the small overall increase in modeled ice volume is actually the residual of much larger opposing regional trends. Thickness changes near the ice edge follow observed concentration changes, with increasing concentration corresponding to increased thickness. Ice thickness increases are also found in the inner pack in the Amundsen and Weddell Seas, where the model suggests that observed ice-drift trends directed toward the coast have caused dynamical thickening in autumn and winter. Modeled changes are predominantly dynamic in origin in the Pacific sector and thermodynamic elsewhere.

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R. Kwok, T. Markus, J. Morison, S. P. Palm, T. A. Neumann, K. M. Brunt, W. B. Cook, D. W. Hancock, and G. F. Cunningham

Abstract

The sole instrument on the upcoming Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite (ICESat-2) altimetry mission is a micropulse lidar that measures the time of flight of individual photons from laser pulses transmitted at 532 nm. Prior to launch, the Multiple Altimeter Beam Experimental Lidar (MABEL) serves as an airborne implementation for testing and development. This paper provides a first examination of MABEL data acquired on two flights over sea ice in April 2012: one north of the Arctic coast of Greenland and the other in the east Greenland Sea. The phenomenology of photon distributions in the sea ice returns is investigated. An approach to locate the surface and estimate its elevation in the distributions is described, and its achievable precision is assessed. Retrieved surface elevations over relatively flat leads in the ice cover suggest that precisions of several centimeters are attainable. Restricting the width of the elevation window used in the surface analysis can mitigate potential biases in the elevation estimates due to subsurface returns at 532 nm. Comparisons of nearly coincident elevation profiles from MABEL with those acquired by an analog lidar show good agreement. Discrimination of ice and open water, a crucial step in the determination of sea ice freeboard and the estimation of ice thickness, is facilitated by contrasts in the observed signal–background photon statistics. Future flight paths will sample a broader range of seasonal ice conditions for further evaluation of the year-round profiling capabilities and limitations of the MABEL instrument.

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E. Carmack, I. Polyakov, L. Padman, I. Fer, E. Hunke, J. Hutchings, J. Jackson, D. Kelley, R. Kwok, C. Layton, H. Melling, D. Perovich, O. Persson, B. Ruddick, M.-L. Timmermans, J. Toole, T. Ross, S. Vavrus, and P. Winsor

Abstract

The loss of Arctic sea ice has emerged as a leading signal of global warming. This, together with acknowledged impacts on other components of the Earth system, has led to the term “the new Arctic.” Global coupled climate models predict that ice loss will continue through the twenty-first century, with implications for governance, economics, security, and global weather. A wide range in model projections reflects the complex, highly coupled interactions between the polar atmosphere, ocean, and cryosphere, including teleconnections to lower latitudes. This paper summarizes our present understanding of how heat reaches the ice base from the original sources—inflows of Atlantic and Pacific Water, river discharge, and summer sensible heat and shortwave radiative fluxes at the ocean/ice surface—and speculates on how such processes may change in the new Arctic. The complexity of the coupled Arctic system, and the logistic and technological challenges of working in the Arctic Ocean, require a coordinated interdisciplinary and international program that will not only improve understanding of this critical component of global climate but will also provide opportunities to develop human resources with the skills required to tackle related problems in complex climate systems. We propose a research strategy with components that include 1) improved mapping of the upper- and middepth Arctic Ocean, 2) enhanced quantification of important process, 3) expanded long-term monitoring at key heat-flux locations, and 4) development of numerical capabilities that focus on parameterization of heat-flux mechanisms and their interactions.

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