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Keywords:

  • frazil;
  • sea ice;
  • experimental

With the current and likely continuing reduction of summer sea ice extent in the Arctic Ocean, the predominant mechanism of sea ice formation in the Arctic is likely to change in the future. Although substantial new ice formation occurred under preexisting ice in the past, the fraction of sea ice formation in open water likely will increase significantly. In open water, sea ice formation starts with the development of small ice crystals, called frazil ice, which are suspended in the water column [World Meteorological Organization, 1985]. Under quiescent conditions, these crystals accumulate at the surface to form an unbroken ice sheet known in its early stage as nilas. Under turbulent conditions, caused by wind and waves, frazil ice continues to grow and forms into a thick, soupy mixture called grease ice. Eventually the frazil ice will coalesce into small, rounded pieces known as pancake ice, which finally consolidate into an ice sheet with the return of calm conditions. This frazil/pancake/ice sheet cycle is currently frequently observed in the Antarctic [Lange et al., 1989]. The cycle normally occurs in regions that have a significant stretch of open water, because this allows for the formation of larger waves and hence increased turbulence. Given the increase of such open water in the Arctic Ocean caused by retreating summer sea ice, the frazil/pancake/ice sheet cycle may also become the dominant ice formation process during freezeup in the Arctic.