Interannual variability in Transpolar Drift summer sea ice thickness and potential impact of Atlantification

jakob.belter [ at ]


Changes in Arctic sea ice thickness are the result of complex interactions of the dynamic and variable ice cover with atmosphere and ocean. Most of the sea ice exiting the Arctic Ocean does so through Fram Strait, which is why long-term measurements of ice thickness at the end of the Transpolar Drift provide insight into the integrated signals of thermodynamic and dynamic influences along the pathways of Arctic sea ice. We present an updated summer (July–August) time series of extensive ice thickness surveys carried out at the end of the Transpolar Drift between 2001 and 2020. Overall, we see a more than 20 % thinning of modal ice thickness since 2001. A comparison of this time series with first preliminary results from the international Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate (MOSAiC) shows that the modal summer thickness of the MOSAiC floe and its wider vicinity are consistent with measurements from previous years at the end of the Transpolar Drift. By combining this unique time series with the Lagrangian sea ice tracking tool, ICETrack, and a simple thermodynamic sea ice growth model, we link the observed interannual ice thickness variability north of Fram Strait to increased drift speeds along the Transpolar Drift and the consequential variations in sea ice age. We also show that the increased influence of upward-directed ocean heat flux in the eastern marginal ice zones, termed Atlantification, is not only responsible for sea ice thinning in and around the Laptev Sea but also that the induced thickness anomalies persist beyond the Russian shelves and are potentially still measurable at the end of the Transpolar Drift after more than a year. With a tendency towards an even faster Transpolar Drift, winter sea ice growth will have less time to compensate for the impact processes, such as Atlantification, have on sea ice thickness in the eastern marginal ice zone, which will increasingly be felt in other parts of the sea-ice-covered Arctic.

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DOI 10.5194/tc-15-2575-2021

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Belter, H. J. , Krumpen, T. , von Albedyll, L. , Alekseeva, T. A. , Birnbaum, G. , Frolov, S. V. , Hendricks, S. , Herber, A. , Polyakov, I. , Raphael, I. , Ricker, R. , Serovetnikov, S. S. , Webster, M. and Haas, C. (2021): Interannual variability in Transpolar Drift summer sea ice thickness and potential impact of Atlantification , The Cryosphere, 15 (6), pp. 2575-2591 . doi: 10.5194/tc-15-2575-2021

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Geographical region

Research Platforms

POLAR 6 > P6_207_TIFAX_2017
POLAR 6 > P6_211_ASIMBO_2018
POLAR 6 > P6_217_ICEBIRD_2019
POLAR 6 > P6_222_IceBird_MOSAiC_2020
PS > 122/3 (MOSAiC20192020)
PS > 122/4 (MOSAiC20192020)

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