Journal cover Journal topic
The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
The Cryosphere, 11, 1553-1573, 2017
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
04 Jul 2017
Sea-ice deformation in a coupled ocean–sea-ice model and in satellite remote sensing data
Gunnar Spreen1,2, Ron Kwok2, Dimitris Menemenlis2, and An T. Nguyen2,a 1University of Bremen, Institute of Environmental Physics, Bremen, Germany
2Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, USA
anow at: The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, USA
Abstract. A realistic representation of sea-ice deformation in models is important for accurate simulation of the sea-ice mass balance. Simulated sea-ice deformation from numerical simulations with 4.5, 9, and 18 km horizontal grid spacing and a viscous–plastic (VP) sea-ice rheology are compared with synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite observations (RGPS, RADARSAT Geophysical Processor System) for the time period 1996–2008. All three simulations can reproduce the large-scale ice deformation patterns, but small-scale sea-ice deformations and linear kinematic features (LKFs) are not adequately reproduced. The mean sea-ice total deformation rate is about 40 % lower in all model solutions than in the satellite observations, especially in the seasonal sea-ice zone. A decrease in model grid spacing, however, produces a higher density and more localized ice deformation features. The 4.5 km simulation produces some linear kinematic features, but not with the right frequency. The dependence on length scale and probability density functions (PDFs) of absolute divergence and shear for all three model solutions show a power-law scaling behavior similar to RGPS observations, contrary to what was found in some previous studies. Overall, the 4.5 km simulation produces the most realistic divergence, vorticity, and shear when compared with RGPS data. This study provides an evaluation of high and coarse-resolution viscous–plastic sea-ice simulations based on spatial distribution, time series, and power-law scaling metrics.

Citation: Spreen, G., Kwok, R., Menemenlis, D., and Nguyen, A. T.: Sea-ice deformation in a coupled ocean–sea-ice model and in satellite remote sensing data, The Cryosphere, 11, 1553-1573,, 2017.
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