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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
doi:10.5194/tc-2016-7
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed
under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
29 Feb 2016
Review status
A revision of this discussion paper was accepted for the journal The Cryosphere (TC) and is expected to appear here in due course.
A mechanism that produces dichotomy in melt pond coverage in sea ice floes
Predrag Popović and Dorian S. Abbot Department of Geophysical sciences, University of Chicago, Hinds Geophysical Sciences, 5734 S. Ellis Ave., Chicago, IL 60637
Abstract. Late in the melt season, sea ice floes in the Arctic have been observed to exhibit a large range in melt pond coverage, from heavily ponded to almost pond free. Some of these observations are consistent with a bimodal distribution in pond coverage with few intermediately ponded ice floes. We present a model for the evolution of melt ponds on sea ice floes in which conservation of hydrostatic balance in response to melt creates an unstable fixed point in pond coverage: if the initial pond coverage is below a threshold value the floe becomes unponded, and if it is above the threshold the floe becomes heavily ponded. Whether the fixed point is physically realistic depends on the differential melting rates of different points on the ice: ice at the perimeter of ponds needs to melt sufficiently slower than bare ice on average. Interestingly, this shows that the melting behavior of the narrow boundary between bare ice and melt ponds can govern the melt pond evolution of the entire ice floe. Since melt pond coverage is one of the key parameters controlling the albedo of sea ice, understanding the mechanisms that control the distribution of pond coverage will help us improve large-scale model parameterizations and sea ice forecasts in a warming climate.

Citation: Popović, P. and Abbot, D. S.: A mechanism that produces dichotomy in melt pond coverage in sea ice floes, The Cryosphere Discuss., doi:10.5194/tc-2016-7, in review, 2016.
Predrag Popović and Dorian S. Abbot
Predrag Popović and Dorian S. Abbot

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Short summary
While some pieces of summer Arctic sea ice are heavily covered with meltwater ponds, others are almost pond-free. We show that as the ice melts, ponds shrink if the initial pond coverage is small, wheres they grow for a large initial coverage. A narrow region of ice around the the pond boundaries is crucial in determining the fate of the pond cover, and has to melt slowly enough for our mechanism to be realistic. This work is important as melt ponds affect the overall reflectance of sea ice.
While some pieces of summer Arctic sea ice are heavily covered with meltwater ponds, others are...
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