Examining the Transition from a perennial to a seasonal sea ice cover in the Arctic Ocean: A Lagrangian Approach
The cover image illustrates peak weather regime intensities over the easter Northern Pacific.


Multi-year ice
First-year ice

How to Cite

Hart, J., Tremblay, B., Brunette, C., Dufour, C., & Newton, R. (2019). Examining the Transition from a perennial to a seasonal sea ice cover in the Arctic Ocean: A Lagrangian Approach. McGill Science Undergraduate Research Journal, 14(1), 28–32. https://doi.org/10.26443/msurj.v14i1.50


Background: Declining Arctic sea ice extent has been accompanied by a large loss in multiyear ice (MYI). The dynamic and thermodynamic processes which affect this transition include promotion of first year ice (FYI) to MYI, demotion (melting) of MYI to open water, and ice export through Fram Strait. In this study we quantify the relative importance of these three processes.

Methods: We use the Lagrangian Ice Tracking System which employs satellite-derived sea ice drift vectors combined with sea ice concentrations to find annual areas of promotion, demotion, and export.

Results: Over the satellite record (1989-2015), we quantify the total contributions to sea ice extent loss from promotion (+30 million km2), demotion (-19.7 million km2), and export of MYI (-18.6 million km2). The result is a total net loss of 8.3 million km2 of MYI. We find that all three processes are positively correlated with minimum sea ice extent and are increasing with rates of +0.165 million km2/decade, -0.146 million km2/ decade, and -0.096 million km2/decade for promotion, demotion, and export respectively. We also compute the negative ice growth feedback at 0.59 (with r2=0.27). This indicates that ice pack recovers, on average, 59% of the MYI area lost to demotion/export through promotion of FYI the following winter.

Limitations: Uncertainties in the drift speed are compounded by the weekly temporal resolution of the model, which affects the resulting estimates of demotion and promotion area.

Conclusion: Demotion and export combined are increasing faster than promotion and represent a larger area contribution. This imbalance accounts for the observed loss of MYI area.


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