Size distribution and shape properties of relatively small sea-ice floes in the Antarctic marginal ice zone in late winter
Toyota, T and Haas, C and Tamura, T, Size distribution and shape properties of relatively small sea-ice floes in the Antarctic marginal ice zone in late winter, Deep-Sea Research. Part 2: Topical Studies in Oceanography, 58, (9-10) pp. 1182-1193. ISSN 0967-0645 (2011) [Refereed Article]
In the marginal sea ice zone (MIZ), where relatively small ice floes are dominant, the floe size distribution is an important parameter affecting melt processes given the larger cumulative perimeter of multiple small floes compared with a single ice floe of the same area. Smaller ice floes are therefore subject to increased lateral melt. However, the available data have been very limited so far. Analysis of sea ice in the Sea of Okhotsk revealed that while floe size distribution is basically scale invariant, a regime shift occurs at a size of about 40 m. In order to extend this preliminary result to the Antarctic MIZ and further examine the controlling factors, the first concurrent ice floe size and ice thickness measurements were conducted in the northwestern Weddell Sea and off Wilkes Land (around 64°S, 117°E) with a heli-borne digital video camera in the late winter of 2006 and 2007, respectively. The floe sizes ranged from 2 to 100 m. Our analysis shows: 1) the scale invariance and regime shift are confirmed in both regions; 2) the floe size at which regime shift occurs slightly increases from 20 to 40 m, with ice thickness, consistent with the theory of the flexural failure of sea ice; and 3) the aspect ratio is 1.6-1.9 on average, close to the previous results. Based on these results, the processes affecting the floe size distribution and the subsequent implications on melt processes are discussed. By applying a renormalization group method to interpret the scale invariance in floe size distribution, the fractal dimension is related to the fragility of sea ice. These results indicate the importance of wave-ice interaction in determining the floe size distribution.