Seasonal sea ice changes in the Amundsen Sea, Antarctica, over the period of 1979–2014
Stammerjohn, SE and Maksym, T and Massom, RA and Lowry, KE and Arrigo, KR and Yuan, X and Raphael, M and Randall-Goodwin, E and Sherrell, RM and Yager, PL, Seasonal sea ice changes in the Amundsen Sea, Antarctica, over the period of 1979-2014, Elementa, 3 Article 55. ISSN 2325-1026 (2015) [Refereed Article]
Recent attention has focused on accelerated glacial losses along the Amundsen Sea coast that result from changes in atmosphere and ocean circulation, with sea ice playing a mediating but not well-understood role. Here, we investigated how sea ice has changed in the Amundsen Sea over the period of 1979 to 2014, focusing on spatio-temporal changes in ice edge advance/retreat and percent sea ice cover in relation to changes in winds. In contrast to the widespread sea ice decreases to the east and increases to the west of the Amundsen Sea, sea ice changes in the Amundsen Sea were confined to three areas: (i) offshore of the shelf break, (ii) the southern Pine Island Polynya, and (iii) the eastern Amundsen Sea Polynya. Offshore, a 2-month decrease in ice season duration coincided with seasonal shifts in wind speed and direction from March to May (relating to later ice advance) and from September to August (relating to earlier retreat), consistent with reported changes in the depth/location of the Amundsen Sea Low. In contrast, sea ice decreases in the polynya areas corresponded to episodic or step changes in spring ice retreat (earlier by 1–2 months) and were coincident with changes to Thwaites Iceberg Tongue (located between the two polynyas) and increased southeasterly winds. Temporal correlations among these three areas were weak, indicating different local forcing and/or differential response to large-scale forcing. Although our analysis has shown that part of the variability can be explained by changes in winds or to the coastal icescape, an additional but unknown factor is how sea ice has responded to changes in ocean heat and freshwater inputs. Unraveling cause and effect, critical for predicting changes to this rapidly evolving ocean-ice shelf-sea ice system, will require in situ observations, along with improved remote sensing capabilities and ocean modeling.