Mechanisms driving the asymmetric seasonal cycle of Antarctic Sea Ice in the CESM Large Ensemble

Clare Eayrs, Daiane Faller, David M. Holland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The yearly paired process of slow growth and rapid melt of some 15 million square kilometers of Antarctic sea ice takes place with a regular asymmetry; the process has been linked to the relationship of the position of the ice edge with the band of low pressure that circles the continent between 60° and 70°S. In autumn, winds to the north of the low-pressure band slow the advancing ice edge. In summer, Ekman divergence created by opposing winds on either side of the low-pressure band opens up warm water regions that rapidly melt sea ice. We use the 40 ensemble members from the CESM-LENS historical run (1920-2005) to examine the relationship between the asymmetry in the annual cycle and the position and intensity of the low-pressure band. CESM-LENS reproduces the magnitude of the annual cycle of Antarctic sea ice extent with a short lag (2 weeks). Melt rate is the characteristic of the annual cycle that varies the most. Our results provide evidence that lower pressure leads to increased melt rates, which supports the importance of the role of divergence in increasing the melt rate of Antarctic sea ice. The role of winds during the growing season remains unquantified.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)171-180
Number of pages10
JournalAnnals of Glaciology
Issue number82
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020


  • Ice/atmosphere interactions
  • sea ice
  • sea-ice growth and decay

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes


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