Linking sea ice deformation to ice thickness redistribution using high-resolution satellite and airborne observations

luisa.von.albedyll [ at ]


An unusual, large, latent-heat polynya opened and then closed by freezing and convergence north of Greenland's coast in late winter 2018. The closing presented a natural but well-constrained full-scale ice deformation experiment. We observed the closing of and deformation within the polynya with satellite synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) imagery and measured the accumulated effects of dynamic and thermodynamic ice growth with an airborne electromagnetic (AEM) ice thickness survey 1 month after the closing began. During that time, strong ice convergence decreased the area of the refrozen polynya by a factor of 2.5. The AEM survey showed mean and modal thicknesses of the 1-month-old ice of 1.96 ± 1.5 m and 1.1 m, respectively. We show that this is in close agreement with modeled thermodynamic growth and with the dynamic thickening expected from the polynya area decrease during that time. We found significant differences in the shapes of ice thickness distributions (ITDs) in different regions of the refrozen polynya. These closely corresponded to different deformation histories of the surveyed ice that we reconstructed from Lagrangian ice drift trajectories in reverse chronological order. We constructed the ice drift trajectories from regularly gridded, high-resolution drift fields calculated from SAR imagery and extracted deformation derived from the drift fields along the trajectories. Results show a linear proportionality between convergence and thickness change that agrees well with the ice thickness redistribution theory. We found a proportionality between the e folding of the ITDs' tails and the total deformation experienced by the ice. Lastly, we developed a simple, volume-conserving model to derive dynamic ice thickness change from the combination of Lagrangian trajectories and high-resolution SAR drift and deformation fields. The model has a spatial resolution of 1.4 km and reconstructs thickness profiles in reasonable agreement with the AEM observations. The modeled ITD resembles the main characteristics of the observed ITD, including mode, e folding, and full width at half maximum. Thus, we demonstrate that high-resolution SAR deformation observations are capable of producing realistic ice thickness distributions.

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DOI 10.5194/tc-15-2167-2021

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von Albedyll, L. , Haas, C. and Dierking, W. (2021): Linking sea ice deformation to ice thickness redistribution using high-resolution satellite and airborne observations , The Cryosphere, 15 , pp. 2167-2186 . doi: 10.5194/tc-15-2167-2021

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Research Platforms

POLAR 5 > P5_210_PAMARCMIP_2018

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