Modelled trends in Antarctic sea ice thickness

Unlike the rapid sea-ice losses reported in the Arctic, satellite observations show an overall increase in Antarctic sea ice concentration over recent decades. However, observations of decadal trends in Antarctic ice thickness, and hence ice volume, do not currently exist. In this study a model of the Southern Ocean and its sea ice, forced by atmospheric reanalyses, is used to assess 1992—2010 trends in ice thickness and volume. The model successfully reproduces observations of mean ice concentration, thickness, and drift, and decadal trends in ice concentration and drift, imparting some confidence in the hindcasted trends in ice thickness. The model suggests that overall Antarctic sea ice volume has increased by approximately 30km3/y (0.4%/y) as an equal result of areal expansion (20×103km2/y, or 0.2%/y) and thickening (1.5mm/y, or 0.2%/y). This ice volume increase is an order of magnitude smaller than the Arctic decrease, and about half the size of the increased freshwater supply from the Antarctic Ice Sheet. Similarly to the observed ice concentration trends, the small overall increase in modelled ice volume is actually the residual of much larger opposing regional trends. Thickness changes near the ice edge follow observed concentration changes, with increasing concentration corresponding to increased thickness. Ice thickness increases are also found in the inner pack in the Amundsen and Weddell seas, where the model suggests that observed ice-drift trends directed towards the coast have caused dynamical thickening in autumn and winter. Modelled changes are predominantly dynamic in origin in the Pacific sector and thermodynamic elsewhere.


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Authors: Holland, Paul R. ORCIDORCID record for Paul R. Holland, Bruneau, Nicolas, Enright, Clare, Losch, Martin, Kurtz, Nathan T., Kwok, Ron

On this site: Paul Holland
1 May, 2014
Journal of Climate / 27
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