TRR 181 Seminar "Submesoscale eddies and sea ice interaction" by Lily Greig (University of Reading)

The TRR 181 seminar is held every other week in the semester and as announced during semester break. The locations of the seminar changes between the three TRR181 locations, but is broadcastet online for all members of the TRR.

The TRR 181 seminar is held by Lily Greig (University of Reading) on November 24, online.

Submesoscale eddies and sea ice interaction


The submesoscale, defined dynamically as those processes with order 1 Rossby and Richardson numbers, is of emerging interest within oceanography due to the role it plays in surface layer nutrient and tracer transport. Submesoscale baroclinic eddies, or mixed layer eddies (MLEs), if energized in the marginal ice zone (MIZ), have the potential to impact both the rate of ice melt/formation and the magnitude of air-sea heat fluxes in the vicinity of the ice edge.

In this study, a MITgcm idealized high resolution simulation is used to quantify the impact of MLEs in the vicinity of the ice edge, with focus on the thermodynamic component. The domain (75 km by 75 km at 250 m resolution) is a zonally re-entrant channel with ice-free/ice-covered conditions in the South/North, representing a lead or the MIZ. To measure the eddy impact on both sea ice and air-sea heat fluxes, comparisons are made between a 3D simulation with eddies and a 2D simulation with no eddies (no zonal extension, but otherwise identical to the 3D version). Typical conditions (stratification, forcing) of the Arctic/Antarctic and summer/winter seasons are considered.

When eddies are permitted to energize and develop within these simulations, their impacts are numerous and coupled: under summer Artic conditions, meridional heat transport to the ice-covered region is tripled in the presence of eddies, which leads to a doubling of the average heat storage in the ice-covered ocean with subsequent impact on the ice melt. Novel analysis into the direct impact of these eddies on air-sea heat fluxes also shows that - due the partial absorption of downwelling solar radiation by sea ice cover - the solar heat flux into the ice-covered mixed layer increases by 20% when eddies are present. Computing the residual overturning stream function, responsible for driving warmer waters under the ice, reveals the ocean dynamics behind these impacts. The overturning, weakly present in the 2D model due to frontogenesis, increases threefold in the 3D case with submesoscale eddies. Tests with the Fox-Kemper parameterization within the 2D set-up also helps to evaluate to which extent this parameterization can capture the influence of MLEs in these polar conditions.