Antarctic sea ice is mostly seasonal. While changes in sea ice seasonality have been observed in recent decades, the lack of process understanding remains a key challenge to interpret these changes. To address this knowledge gap, we investigate the processes driving the ice season onset, known as sea ice advance, using remote sensing and in situ observations. Here, we find that seawater freezing predominantly drives advance in the inner seasonal ice zone. By contrast, in an outer band a few degrees wide, advance is due to the import of drifting ice into warmer waters. We show that advance dates are strongly related to the heat stored in the summer ocean mixed layer. This heat is controlled by the timing of sea ice retreat, explaining the tight link between retreat and advance dates. Such a thermodynamic linkage strongly constrains the climatology and interannual variations, albeit with less influence on the latter.
Authors: Himmich, K., Vancoppenolle, M., Madec, G., Sallée, J-B., Holland, P.R. ORCID record for P.R. Holland, Lebrun, M.