The Beaufort Sea has experienced a significant decline in sea ice, with thinner first-year ice replacing thicker multi-year ice. This transition makes the ice cover weaker and more mobile, making it more vulnerable to breakup during winter. Using a coupled ocean-sea-ice model, we investigated the impact of these changes on sea-ice breakup events and lead formation from 2000 to 2018. The simulation shows an increasing trend in the Beaufort Sea lead area fraction during winter, with a pronounced transition around 2007. A high lead area fraction in winter promotes a significant growth of new, thin ice within the Beaufort region while also leading to enhanced sea ice transport out of the area. The export offsets ice growth, resulting in negative volume anomalies and preconditioning a thinner and weaker ice pack at the end of the cool season. Our results indicate that large breakup events may become more frequent as the sea-ice cover thins and that such events only became common after 2007. This result highlights the need to represent these processes in global-scale climate models to improve projections of the Arctic.
We present a new brittle rheology and an accompanying numerical framework for large-scale sea-ice modelling. This rheology is based on a Bingham-Maxwell constitutive model and the Maxwell-Elasto-Brittle (MEB) rheology, the latter of which has previously been used to model sea ice. The key strength of the MEB rheology is its ability to represent the scaling properties of simulated sea-ice deformation in space and time. The new rheology we propose here, which we refer to as the brittle Bingham-Maxwell rheology (BBM), represents a further evolution of the MEB rheology. It is developed to address two main shortcomings of the MEB rheology and numerical implementation we were unable to address previously: excessive thickening of the ice in model runs longer than about one winter and a relatively high computational cost. In the BBM rheology and numerical framework these shortcomings are addressed by demanding that the ice deforms under convergence in a purely elastic manner when internal stresses lie below a given compressive threshold. Numerical performance is improved by introducing an explicit scheme to solve the ice momentum equation. In this paper we introduce the new rheology and numerical framework. Using an implementation of BBM in version two of the neXtSIM sea-ice model (neXtSIMv2), we show that it gives reasonable long term evolution of the Arctic sea-ice cover and very good deformation fields and statistics compared to satellite observations.
As the sea-ice modeling community is shifting to advanced numerical frameworks, developing new sea-ice rheologies, and increasing model spatial resolution, ubiquitous deformation features in the Arctic sea ice are now being resolved by sea-ice models. Initiated at the Forum for Arctic Modelling and Observational Synthesis (FAMOS), the Sea Ice Rheology Experiment (SIREx) aims at evaluating current state-of-the-art sea-ice models using existing and new metrics to understand how the simulated deformation fields are affected by different representations of sea-ice physics (rheology) and by model configuration. Part I of the SIREx analysis is concerned with evaluation of the statistical distribution and scaling properties of sea-ice deformation fields from 35 different simulations against those from the RADARSAT Geophysical Processor System (RGPS). For the first time, the Viscous-Plastic (and the Elastic-Viscous-Plastic variant), Elastic-Anisotropic-Plastic, and Maxwell-Elasto-Brittle rheologies are compared in a single study. We find that both plastic and brittle sea-ice rheologies have the potential to reproduce the observed RGPS deformation statistics, including multi-fractality. Model configuration (e.g. numerical convergence, atmospheric forcing, spatial resolution) and physical parameterizations (e.g. ice strength parameters and ice thickness distribution) both have effects as important as the choice of sea-ice rheology on the deformation statistics. It is therefore not straightforward to attribute model performance to a specific rheological framework using current deformation metrics. In light of these results, we further evaluate the statistical properties of simulated Linear Kinematic Features (LKFs) in a SIREx Part II companion paper.
Simulating sea-ice drift and deformation in the Arctic Ocean is still a challenge because of the multi-scale interaction of sea-ice floes that compose the Arctic sea ice cover. The Sea Ice Rheology Experiment (SIREx) is a model intercomparison project formed within the Forum of Arctic Modeling and Observational Synthesis (FAMOS) to collect and design skill metrics to evaluate different recently suggested approaches for modeling linear kinematic features (LKFs) and provide guidance for modeling small-scale deformation. In this contribution, spatial and temporal properties of LKFs are assessed in 36 simulations of state-of-the-art sea ice models and compared to deformation features derived from RADARSAT Geophysical Processor System (RGPS). All simulations produce LKFs, but only very few models realistically simulate at least some statistics of LKF properties such as densities, lengths, or growth rates. All SIREx models overestimate the angle of fracture between conjugate pairs of LKFs and LKF lifetimes pointing to inaccurate model physics. The temporal and spatial resolution of a simulation and the spatial resolution of atmospheric forcing affect simulated LKFs as much as the model’s sea ice rheology and numerics. Only in very high resolution simulations (≤2\,km) the concentration and thickness anomalies along LKFs are large enough to affect air-ice-ocean interaction processes.