Variability and changes of Arctic sea ice thickness distribution under different AO/DA states
1Univ. of Helsinki, Department of Physics, P.O. Box 48, 00014 University of Helsinki, Finland
2Finnish Meteorological Institute, Helsinki, Finland
Abstract. Changes of the mean sea ice thickness and concentration in the Arctic are well known. However, comparable little is known about the ice thickness distribution and the composition of ice pack in quantity. In this paper we determine the ice thickness distributions, mean and modal thicknesses, and their regional and seasonal variability in the Arctic under different large scale atmospheric circulation modes. We compare characteristics of the Arctic ice pack during the periods 1975–1987 and 1988–2000, which have a different distribution in the AO/DA space. The study is based on submarine measurements of sea ice draft.
The prevalent feature is that the peak of sea ice thickness distributions has generally taken a narrower form and shifted toward thinner ice. Also, both mean and modal ice thickness have generally decreased. These noticeable changes result from a loss of thick, mostly deformed, ice. In the spring the loss of the volume of ice thicker than 5 m exceeds 35% in all regions except the Nansen Basin, and the reduction is as much as over 45% at the North Pole and in the Eastern Arctic. In the autumn the volume of thick, mostly deformed ice has decreased by more than 40% in the Canada Basin only, but the reduction is more than 30% also in the Beaufort Sea and in the Chukchi Sea. In the Beaufort Sea region the decrease of the modal draft has been so strong that the peak has shifted from multiyear ice to first-year type ice. Also, the regional and seasonal variability of the sea ice thickness has decreased, since the thinning has been the most pronounced in the regions with the thickest pack ice (the Western Arctic), and during the spring (0.6–0.8 m per decade).