Get access

Polynyas and leads: An overview of physical processes and environment


  • Stuart D. Smith,

  • Robin D. Muench,

  • Carol H. Pease


Polynyas and leads are openings in pack ice due to divergences in ice drift and to local melting. They are the vents and windows to the polar oceans. In winter they are a major source of brine during freezing and a locus for gas exchange. Large sensible heat fluxes, together with evaporation and longwave radiation from a very small percentage of open water and thin ice, dominate regional heat budgets. In summer, solar radiation is absorbed by open water but is reflected from snow-covered pack ice. Experiments and models describing these processes are reviewed.

Get access to the full text of this article