Nav: Home

New technique more accurately reflects ponds on Arctic sea ice

April 06, 2018

This one simple mathematical trick can accurately predict the shape and melting effects of ponds on Arctic sea ice, according to new research by UChicago scientists.

The study, published April 4 in Physical Review Letters by researchers with UChicago and MIT, should help climate scientists improve models of climate change and perhaps plug a gap between scientific predictions and observations over the past decade, they said.

Every winter, some of the ocean freezes into ice. Much of the Arctic ecosystem--from polar bears to algae--revolves around this sea ice. It also has a significant impact on the global climate; it can reflect heat back out to space so the Earth doesn't absorb it, and it's a major player in ocean circulation.

"But sea ice cover has been shrinking, and significantly faster than our models predict," said Predrag Popovi?, a UChicago graduate student and first author of the paper. "So we're looking for where the discrepancy might be."

One possibility is melt ponds. As the sun shines and the ice melts, ponds of water form atop the ice. These ponds absorb extra sunlight, because they're darker than ice, which in turn causes the rest of the ice to melt faster. Their size and shape also influence how ice breaks up, and how much light gets to organisms living below the ice.

Popovi?, along with Prof. Mary Silber and Assoc. Prof. Dorian Abbot of the University of Chicago, wondered if there was a better way to statistically model these ponds. Their "void" method starts by creating a series of random circles, allowing them to overlap and considering the voids between the circles as melt ponds.

This turns out to be quite effective at estimating how actual melt ponds form and behave, which they found by comparing them to aerial images of melts taken in 1998 and 2005.

Simpler math is particularly helpful for scientists trying to build global climate models, which are already massively complicated and computationally expensive.

"You can get similar characteristics using other mathematical methods, but the void model is much simpler and just as accurate," Abbot said. "Knowing this simple technique can accurately describe ponds could improve our predictions of how sea ice will respond as the Arctic continues to warm."

"It really sets a target for understanding of sea ice," Silber added.
-end-


University of Chicago

Related Climate Change Articles:

Mysterious climate change
New research findings underline the crucial role that sea ice throughout the Southern Ocean played for atmospheric CO2 in times of rapid climate change in the past.
Mapping the path of climate change
Predicting a major transition, such as climate change, is extremely difficult, but the probabilistic framework developed by the authors is the first step in identifying the path between a shift in two environmental states.
Small change for climate change: Time to increase research funding to save the world
A new study shows that there is a huge disproportion in the level of funding for social science research into the greatest challenge in combating global warming -- how to get individuals and societies to overcome ingrained human habits to make the changes necessary to mitigate climate change.
Sub-national 'climate clubs' could offer key to combating climate change
'Climate clubs' offering membership for sub-national states, in addition to just countries, could speed up progress towards a globally harmonized climate change policy, which in turn offers a way to achieve stronger climate policies in all countries.
Review of Chinese atmospheric science research over the past 70 years: Climate and climate change
Over the past 70 years since the foundation of the People's Republic of China, Chinese scientists have made great contributions to various fields in the research of atmospheric sciences, which attracted worldwide attention.
A CERN for climate change
In a Perspective article appearing in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Tim Palmer (Oxford University), and Bjorn Stevens (Max Planck Society), critically reflect on the present state of Earth system modelling.
Fairy-wrens change breeding habits to cope with climate change
Warmer temperatures linked to climate change are having a big impact on the breeding habits of one of Australia's most recognisable bird species, according to researchers at The Australian National University (ANU).
Believing in climate change doesn't mean you are preparing for climate change, study finds
Notre Dame researchers found that although coastal homeowners may perceive a worsening of climate change-related hazards, these attitudes are largely unrelated to a homeowner's expectations of actual home damage.
Older forests resist change -- climate change, that is
Older forests in eastern North America are less vulnerable to climate change than younger forests, particularly for carbon storage, timber production, and biodiversity, new research finds.
Could climate change cause infertility?
A number of plant and animal species could find it increasingly difficult to reproduce if climate change worsens and global temperatures become more extreme -- a stark warning highlighted by new scientific research.
More Climate Change News and Climate Change Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Debbie Millman: Designing Our Lives
From prehistoric cave art to today's social media feeds, to design is to be human. This hour, designer Debbie Millman guides us through a world made and remade–and helps us design our own paths.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#574 State of the Heart
This week we focus on heart disease, heart failure, what blood pressure is and why it's bad when it's high. Host Rachelle Saunders talks with physician, clinical researcher, and writer Haider Warraich about his book "State of the Heart: Exploring the History, Science, and Future of Cardiac Disease" and the ails of our hearts.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Insomnia Line
Coronasomnia is a not-so-surprising side-effect of the global pandemic. More and more of us are having trouble falling asleep. We wanted to find a way to get inside that nighttime world, to see why people are awake and what they are thinking about. So what'd Radiolab decide to do?  Open up the phone lines and talk to you. We created an insomnia hotline and on this week's experimental episode, we stayed up all night, taking hundreds of calls, spilling secrets, and at long last, watching the sunrise peek through.   This episode was produced by Lulu Miller with Rachael Cusick, Tracie Hunte, Tobin Low, Sarah Qari, Molly Webster, Pat Walters, Shima Oliaee, and Jonny Moens. Want more Radiolab in your life? Sign up for our newsletter! We share our latest favorites: articles, tv shows, funny Youtube videos, chocolate chip cookie recipes, and more. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.