• sea ice drift;
  • Arctic Ocean;
  • numerical modeling

[1] Drift is a prominent parameter characterizing the Arctic sea ice cover that has a deep impact on the climate system. Hence it is a key issue to both the remote sensing as well as the modeling community, to provide reliable sea ice drift fields. This study focuses on the comparison of sea ice drift results from different sea ice-ocean coupled models and the validation with observational data in the period 1979–2001. The models all take part in the Arctic Ocean Model Intercomparison Project (AOMIP) and the observations are mainly based on satellite imagery. According to speed distributions, one class of models has a mode at drift speeds around 3 cm s−1 and a short tail toward higher speeds. Another class shows a more even frequency distribution with large probability of drift speeds of 10 to 20 cm s−1. Observations clearly agree better with the first class of model results. Reasons for these differences are manifold and lie in discrepancies of wind stress forcing as well as sea ice model characteristics and sea ice-ocean coupling. Moreover, we investigated the drift patterns of anticyclonic and cyclonic wind-driven regimes. The models are capable of producing realistic drift pattern variability. The winter of 1994/1995 stands out because of its maximum in Fram Strait ice export. Although export estimates of some models agree with observations, the corresponding inner Arctic drift pattern is not reproduced. The reason for this is found in the wind-forcing as well as in differences in ocean velocities.