Drivers of variability in Arctic sea-ice drift speed

TitleDrivers of variability in Arctic sea-ice drift speed
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsOlason, E, Notz, D
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research (JGR): Oceans

We explore the main drivers of seasonal and long-term variations in basin-scale Arctic sea-ice drift speed. To do so, we examine the relationship between the observed time-varying area-mean ice drift speed in the central Arctic and observed thickness and concentration as well as surface wind stress. Drift speeds are calculated from the positions of drifting buoys, thickness is based on submarine observations, concentration on satellite observations, and the wind stress comes from a global reanalysis. We find that seasonal changes in drift speed are correlated primarily with changes in concentration when concentration is low and with changes in thickness otherwise. The correlation between drift speed and concentration occurs because changing concentration changes how readily the ice responds to the synoptic-scale forcing of the atmosphere. Drift speed is correlated with neither concentration nor thickness in April and May. We show this behavior to be correlated with a decrease in the localization of deformation. This indicates that the increase in drift speed is caused by newly formed fractures not refreezing, leading to an overall reduced ice-cover strength without a detectable change in ice concentration. We show that a strong long-term trend exists in months of relatively low ice concentration. Using our analysis of the seasonal cycle, we show that the trend in concentration drives a significant portion of the drift-speed trend, possibly reinforced by a trend in cyclone activity. Hence, the trend in drift speed in this period is primarily caused by increased synoptic-scale movement of the ice pack.

Refereed DesignationRefereed
Author Address