A model of the three-dimensional evolution of Arctic melt ponds on first-year and multiyear sea ice

During winter the ocean surface in polar regions freezes over to form sea ice. In the summer the upper layers of sea ice and snow melts producing meltwater that accumulates in Arctic melt ponds on the surface of sea ice. An accurate estimate of the fraction of the sea ice surface covered in melt ponds is essential for a realistic estimate of the albedo for global climate models. We present a melt-pond-sea-ice model that simulates the three-dimensional evolution of melt ponds on an Arctic sea ice surface. The advancements of this model compared to previous models are the inclusion of snow topography; meltwater transport rates are calculated from hydraulic gradients and ice permeability; and the incorporation of a detailed one-dimensional, thermodynamic radiative balance. Results of model runs simulating first-year and multiyear sea ice are presented. Model results show good agreement with observations, with duration of pond coverage, pond area, and ice ablation comparing well for both the first-year ice and multiyear ice cases. We investigate the sensitivity of the melt pond cover to changes in ice topography, snow topography, and vertical ice permeability. Snow was found to have an important impact mainly at the start of the melt season, whereas initial ice topography strongly controlled pond size and pond fraction throughout the melt season. A reduction in ice permeability allowed surface flooding of relatively flat, first-year ice but had little impact on the pond coverage of rougher, multiyear ice. We discuss our results, including model shortcomings and areas of experimental uncertainty.


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Authors: Scott, F., Feltham, D.L.

1 December, 2010
Journal of Geophysical Research / 115
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