Estimating Arctic sea-ice freeze-up and break-up from the satellite record: A comparison of different approaches in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas

Mark Johnson, Hajo Eicken
2016 Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene  
Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene • 4: 000124 • doi: 10.12952/journal.elementa.000124 elementascience.org Abstract The recognized importance of the annual cycle of sea ice in the Arctic to heat budgets, human behavior, and ecosystem functions, requires consistent definitions of such key events in the ice cycle as break-up and freeze-up. An internally consistent and reproducible approach to characterize the timing of these events in the annual sea-ice cycle is described. An algorithm was
more » ... n algorithm was developed to calculate the start and end dates of freeze-up and break-up and applied to time series of satellite-derived sea-ice concentration from 1979 to 2013. Our approach builds from discussions with sea-ice experts having experience observing and working on the sea ice in the Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. Applying the algorithm to the 1979-2013 satellite data reveals that freeze-up is delayed by two weeks per decade for the Chukchi coast and one week per decade for the Beaufort coast. For both regions, break-up start is arriving earlier by 5-7 days per decade and break-up end is arriving earlier by 10-12 days per decade. In the Chukchi Sea, "early" break-up is arriving earlier by one month over the 34-year period and alternates with a "late" break-up. The calculated freeze-up and break-up dates provide information helpful to understanding the dynamics of the annual sea-ice cycle and identifying the drivers that modify this cycle. The algorithm presented here, and potential refinements, can help guide future work on changes in the seasonal cycle of sea ice. The sea-ice phenology of freeze-up and break-up that results from our approach is consistent with observations of sea-ice use. It may be applied to advancing our understanding and prediction of the timing of seasonal navigation, availability of ice as a biological habitat, and assessment of numerical models. Estimating Arctic sea-ice freeze-up and break-up 2
doi:10.12952/journal.elementa.000124 fatcat:wyu4fzudbbcxzgfiblwot2wb2a