Recent wind driven high sea ice export in the Fram Strait contributes to Arctic sea ice decline
1Bjerknes Center for Climate Research, Bergen, Norway
2Geophysical Institute, Univ. of Bergen, Norway
3Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Centre, Bergen, Norway
Abstract. Arctic sea ice area decrease has been visible for two decades, and continues at a steady rate. Apart from melting, the southward drift through Fram Strait is the main loss. We present high resolution sea ice drift across 79° N from 2004 to 2010. The ice drift is based on radar satellite data and correspond well with variability in local geostrophic wind. The underlying current contributes with a constant southward speed close to 5 cm s−1, and drives about 33 % of the ice export. We use geostrophic winds derived from reanalysis data to calculate the Fram Strait ice area export back to 1957, finding that the sea ice area export recently is about 25 % larger than during the 1960's. The increase in ice export occurred mostly during winter and is directly connected to higher southward ice drift velocities, due to stronger geostrophic winds. The increase in ice drift is large enough to counteract a decrease in ice concentration of the exported sea ice. Using storm tracking we link changes in geostrophic winds to more intense Nordic Sea low pressure systems. Annual sea ice export likely has a significant influence on the summer sea ice variability and we find low values in the 60's, the late 80's and 90's, and particularly high values during 2005–2008. The study highlight the possible role of variability in ice export as an explanatory factor for understanding the dramatic loss of Arctic sea ice the last decades.