, Volume 35, Issue 7-8, pp 1349-1360,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 26 Aug 2009

Atmospheric forcing of Fram Strait sea ice export: a closer look


Fram Strait is the primary region of sea ice export from the Arctic and therefore plays an important role in regulating the amount of sea ice and freshwater within the Arctic. We investigate the variability of Fram Strait sea ice motion and the role of atmospheric circulation forcing using daily data during the period 1979–2006. The most prominent atmospheric driver of anomalous sea ice motion across Fram Strait is an east–west dipole pattern of Sea Level Pressure (SLP) anomalies with centers of action located over the Barents Sea and Greenland. This pattern, also observed in synoptic studies, is associated with anomalous meridional winds across Fram Strait and is thus physically consistent with forcing changes in sea ice motion. The association between the SLP dipole pattern and Fram Strait ice motion is maximized at 0-lag, persists year-round, and is strongest on time scales of 10–60 days. The SLP dipole pattern is the second empirical orthogonal function (EOF) of daily SLP anomalies in both winter and summer. When the analysis is repeated with monthly data, only the Barents center of the SLP dipole remains significantly correlated with Fram Strait sea ice motion. However, after removing the leading EOF of monthly SLP variability (e.g., the North Atlantic Oscillation), the full east–west dipole pattern is recovered. No significant SLP forcing of Fram Strait ice motion is found in summer using monthly data, even when the leading EOF is removed. Our results highlight the importance of high frequency atmospheric variability in forcing Fram Strait sea ice motion.