This study provides a new conceptional framework to understand the life cycle of the floe size distribution of Arctic sea ice and the associated processes. We derived the floe size distribution from selected multi-scale satellite imagery data acquired from different locations and times in the Arctic. Our study identifies three stages of the floe size evolution during summer – “fracturing”, “transition” and “melt/wave fragmentation”. Fracturing defines the initial floe size distribution (N ~ d-α, where d is floe size) formed from the spring breakup, characterised by the single power-law regime over d = 30-3,000 m with α ~ 2. The initial floe size distribution is then modified by various floe fragmentation processes during the transition period, which is characterised by “selective” fragmentation of large floes (d > 200-300 m) with variable α = 2.5-3.5 depending on the degree of fragmentation. As ice melt intensifies, the melt fragmentation expands the single power-law regime into smaller floes (d = 70 m) with α = 2.4-3.8, while a significant reduction of small floes (d < 30-40 m) occurs due to lateral melt. The shape factor shows an overall progression from elongated floes into rounded floes. The effects of scaling and wave-fracture are also discussed.
|Journal||Philosophical transactions. Series A, Mathematical, physical, and engineering sciences|
|Publication status||Accepted/In press - 16 Jun 2022|