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Fragmentation and melting of the seasonal sea ice cover

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SIPW05 - SIP Follow on: Mathematics of sea ice in the twenty-first century

Observations show that sea ice floes range in size from just a few metres to tens of kilometres. Often observations of the floe size distribution (FSD) are fitted using a power law, though the validity of the power-law description of the FSD is disputed. The size of these floes has an important influence on several sea ice processes including the volume of lateral melt, momentum and heat exchange between the sea ice, ocean, and atmosphere, and the rheological behaviour of the sea ice. There have been several recent efforts to replace traditional sea ice model assumptions of a fixed floe size with methods to represent variable floe size. Here we consider two different approaches to modelling the FSD within the CICE sea ice model: the first assumes the FSD follows a power law with a fixed exponent, whereas the second is a prognostic approach where the shape of the FSD is an emergent characteristic. We show the impact of including these FSD models on both sea ice mass balance and melt rates and find high model sensitivity to poorly constrained parameters. We also assess the performance of both models using novel satellite-derived observations of mid-sized floes and demonstrate the need to include a representation of brittle fracture of floes within the prognostic approach. Finally, we explore the model response to how brittle fracture is represented in the prognostic FSD model and discuss the need for a fully physically derived treatment of brittle fracture for use in FSD models.  

This talk is part of the Isaac Newton Institute Seminar Series series.

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