What is it about?

Between 2014 and 2016, the annual mean total Antarctic SIE decreased by an unprecedented amount, with the monthly total SIE reaching a record low level in October 2016. The rapid decline was well captured by a state-of-art global ocean-sea ice model, MITgcm-ECCO2, forced by advanced atmospheric reanalysis data, ERA-Interim. By conducting ensemble sensitivity experiments, it was demonstrated that the rapid decrease in total Antarctic SIE was predominantly a result of extremely anomalous wind-driven sea ice drift caused by record, deep atmospheric low-pressure systems over sectors of the Southern Ocean in 2016.

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Why is it important?

Previous studies have suggested several responsible atmospheric and oceanic processes for this rapid decline. However, an explanation of the relative roles of atmospheric and oceanic processes in driving such large variability in total Antarctic SIE remained, and the major driver still needed to be identified.


The record-low SIE continued in 2017 and 2018. This feature raises interesting questions that need to be addressed, such as which processes are responsible for the sustained record-low SIE in 2016-2018 and how to quantify the relative roles played by these processes compared to that by the wind-driven sea ice drift. Addressing these questions will offer a more complete understanding of large Antarctic sea ice variability and will be useful for predicting the transition between sustained high and low Antarctic SIEs conditions. Moreover, the intensified sea ice drift in such extreme events also greatly changes freshwater transport patterns, with strong implications for oceanic conditions.

Zhaomin Wang
Hohai University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Rapid Decline of Total Antarctic Sea Ice Extent during 2014–16 Controlled by Wind-Driven Sea Ice Drift, Journal of Climate, September 2019, American Meteorological Society,
DOI: 10.1175/jcli-d-18-0635.1.
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