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Title: Physical and optical characteristics of heavily melted “rotten” Arctic sea ice

Abstract. Field investigations of the properties of heavily melted “rotten” Arcticsea ice were carried out on shorefast and drifting ice off the coast ofUtqiaġvik (formerly Barrow), Alaska, during the melt season. While noformal criteria exist to qualify when ice becomes rotten, the objectiveof this study was to sample melting ice at the point at which its structural andoptical properties are sufficiently advanced beyond the peak of the summerseason. Baseline data on the physical (temperature, salinity, density,microstructure) and optical (light scattering) properties of shorefast icewere recorded in May and June 2015. In July of both 2015 and 2017, smallboats were used to access drifting rotten ice within ∼32 km of Utqiaġvik. Measurements showed that pore space increased as icetemperature increased (−8 to 0 C), ice salinitydecreased (10 to 0 ppt), and bulk density decreased (0.9 to0.6 g cm−3). Changes in pore space were characterized with thin-sectionmicrophotography and X-ray micro-computed tomography in the laboratory. Theseanalyses yielded changes in average brine inclusion number density (whichdecreased from 32 to 0.01 mm−3), mean pore size (whichincreased from 80 µm to 3 mm), and total porosity (increased from0 % to > 45 %) and structural anisotropy (variable, withvalues of generally less than 0.7). Additionally, light-scattering coefficientsof the ice increased from approximately 0.06 more » to > 0.35 cm−1 as the ice melt progressed. Together, these findings indicate thatthe properties of Arctic sea ice at the end of melt season are significantlydistinct from those of often-studied summertime ice. If such rotten ice wereto become more prevalent in a warmer Arctic with longer melt seasons, thiscould have implications for the exchange of fluid and heat at the oceansurface.

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Award ID(s):
1724467 1602521
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
The Cryosphere
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
775 to 793
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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