Predictability of Arctic sea ice on weather time scales


The field of Arctic sea ice prediction on “weather time scales” is still in its infancy with little existing understanding of the limits of predictability. This is especially true for sea ice deformation along so-called Linear Kinematic Features (LKFs) including leads that are relevant for marine operations. Here the potential predictability of the sea ice pack in the wintertime Arctic up to ten days ahead is determined, exploiting the fact that sea ice-ocean models start to show skill at representing sea ice deformation at high spatial resolutions. Results are based on ensemble simulations with a high-resolution sea ice-ocean model driven by atmospheric ensemble forecasts. The predictability of LKFs as measured by different metrics drops quickly, with predictability being almost completely lost after 4–8 days. In contrast, quantities such as sea ice concentration or the location of the ice edge retain high levels of predictability throughout the full 10-day forecast period. It is argued that the rapid error growth for LKFs is mainly due to the chaotic behaviour of the atmosphere associated with the low predictability of near surface wind divergence and vorticity; initial condition uncertainty for ice thickness is found to be of minor importance as long as LKFs are initialized at the right locations.
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