Analysis of a rapid sea ice retreat event in the Bellingshausen Sea
The winter advance of the sea ice edge in the Bellingshausen Sea is frequently interrupted by periods of rapid retreat lasting a few days. The frequency and duration of such events strongly controls the location of the late winter sea ice edge in this sector of the Antarctic. We examine the dynamics and thermodynamics of a retreat event that occurred in May 2001 using data from a drifting buoy array together with diagnostics from a kinematic/thermodynamic ice growth model and a high-resolution (11 km) regional coupled ocean-ice model. During the retreat event, the ice edge retreated by 250 km over 13 days in response to strong and persistent northerly winds associated with a quasi-stationary low-pressure system. Ice motion in the outer part of the pack was convergent and correlated strongly with local wind forcing. By contrast, in the region closer to the coast, ice motion was less well correlated with wind forcing. Model diagnostics indicate that ice thickening resulting from convergence in the outer pack was largely balanced by basal melting. In the outer pack, ice was in a state close to free drift while, closer to the coast, internal ice stresses became significant. The ocean-ice model simulated the characteristics of the retreat event realistically, giving us confidence in the ability of such models to reproduce ice conditions in this sector.
Authors: King, J.C., Doble, M.J., Holland, P.R. ORCID record for P.R. Holland