An impact of subgrid-scale ice-ocean dynamics on sea-ice cover

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A coupled sea-ice-ocean numerical model is used to study the impact of an ill-resolved subgrid-scale sea-ice-ocean dynamical process on the areal coverage of the sea-ice field. The process of interest is the transmission of stress from the ocean into the sea-ice cover and its subsequent interaction with the sea-ice internal stress field. An idealized experiment is performed to highlight the difference in evolution of the sea-ice cover in the circumstance of a relatively coarse-resolution grid versus that of a fine-resolution one. The experiment shows that the ubiquitous presence of instabilities in the near-surface ocean flow field as seen on a fine-resolution grid effectively leads to a sink of sea-ice areal coverage that does not occur when such flow instabilities are absent, as on a coarse-resolution grid. This result also implies that a fine-resolution grid may have a more efficient atmosphere-sea-ice-ocean thermodynamic exchange than a coarse one. This sink of sea-ice areal coverage arises because the sea-ice undergoes sporadic, irreversible plastic failure on a fine-resolution grid that, by contrast, does not occur on a coarse-resolution grid. This demonstrates yet again that coarse-resolution coupled climate models are not reaching fine enough resolution in the polar regions of the world ocean to claim that their numerical solutions have reached convergence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1585-1601
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 1 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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