Unusual drift behaviour of multi-year sea ice in the Beaufort Sea during summer 2018
In summer 2018, thick sea ice blocked the mouth of the Amundsen Gulf (AG), Canada, obstructing shipping through the North-west Passage. This study analysed multi-year ice motion to investigate the source of this thick ice and the reasons for its unusual movement. For this purpose, a daily multi-year ice distribution product was generated by ice tracking using gridded daily sea-ice velocities (2003–2018) derived from the AMSR-E and AMSR-2 data. From autumn 2017 to summer 2018, the area of multi-year ice extended westward to the Beaufort Sea and then migrated towards the AG mouth. The primary cause of the unusual ice cover was anomalous AG-ward wind in September 2018. It is known that multi-year ice has become increasingly moveable over the past decades, as indicated by the increasing wind factor (i.e., ratio of ice-drift speed and wind speed), but the unusual ice motion in the summer of 2018 cannot be explainable by the wind factor alone. Accurately, predicting monthly wind and monitoring old thick ice will reduce the risk posed by thick Arctic sea ice to shipping.
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