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Changes of the Arctic marginal ice zone during the satellite era

Rolph, R. J., Feltham, D. L. and Schroeder, D. ORCID: (2020) Changes of the Arctic marginal ice zone during the satellite era. The Cryosphere, 14. pp. 1971-1984. ISSN 1994-0424

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To link to this item DOI: 10.5194/tc-2019-224


Many studies have shown a decrease in Arctic sea ice extent. It does not logically follow, however, that the extent of the marginal ice zone (MIZ), here defined as the area of the ocean with ice concentrations from 15 to 80%, is also changing. Changes in the MIZ extent has implications for the level of atmospheric and ocean heat and gas exchange in the area of partially ice-covered ocean, as well as for the extent of habitat for organisms that rely on the MIZ, from primary producers like sea ice algae to seals and birds. Here, we present, for the first time, an analysis of satellite observations of pan-Arctic averaged MIZ extent. We find no trend in the MIZ extent during the last 40 years from observations. Our results indicate that the constancy of the MIZ extent is the result of an observed increase in width of the MIZ being compensated by a decrease in the perimeter of the MIZ as it moves further north. We present simulations from a coupled sea ice-ocean mixed layer model using a prognostic floe size distribution which we find is consistent with, but poorly constrained by, existing satellite observations of pan-Arctic MIZ extent. We provide seasonal upper and lower bounds on MIZ extent based on the 4 satellite-derived sea ice concentration datasets used. We find a large and significant increase (>50%) in the August and September MIZ fraction (MIZ extent divided by sea ice extent) for the Bootstrap and OSI-450 observational datasets, which can be attributed to the reduction in total sea ice extent. Given the results of this study, we suggest that references to ‘rapid changes’ in the MIZ should remain cautious and provide a specific and clear definition of both the MIZ itself and also the property of the MIZ that is changing.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:90793
Publisher:European Geosciences Union


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