Sea ice thickness in the Eastern Canadian Arctic: Hudson Bay Complex & Baffin Bay

Jack C. Landy*, Jens K. Ehn, David G. Babb, Nathalie Thériault, David G. Barber

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)
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Past observations of sea ice thickness in the Eastern Canadian Arctic (ECA) have generally been restricted to drill-hole measurements at a few local sites on landfast ice. Here we use data from the laser altimeter ICESat and the radar altimeter Cryosat-2 to present a 14-year record (2003–2016) of high-resolution and spatially extensive ice thickness observations for the ECA and identify 12 sub-regions with distinct patterns. The mean sea ice growth rate within the seasonally ice-covered ECA from November to April is 23 cm mo− 1 (565 km3 mo− 1), with the fastest increase in thickness occurring through strong ice convergence and deformation in eastern Hudson Bay and Foxe Basin. Our results demonstrate characteristically asymmetrical distributions of sea ice thickness in both Hudson Bay and Baffin Bay, but in opposing directions. In Hudson Bay the spring ice cover is 40 cm thicker in the eastern region compared to the northwestern region, whereas in Baffin Bay the ice is 20 cm thicker in the western half of the bay compared to the eastern half. In Hudson Bay we find that years with strong and positive ice drift vorticity (i.e. cyclonic and convergent conditions) correlate with increasingly asymmetrical sea ice covers, with the level of west-east asymmetry varying from 2 to 11 cm per 100 km. However, in Baffin Bay the ice drift vorticity is typically negative (i.e. anticyclonic and divergent) with no obvious link to the asymmetry of the spring ice cover. Finally, we estimate that large interannual variations in spring sea ice volume within the ECA lead to ± 15% variations in the volume of freshwater available at the ocean surface during summer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)281-294
Number of pages14
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
Early online date20 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2017


  • Sea ice thickness
  • Eastern Canadian Arctic
  • ICESat
  • Cryosat-2
  • Sea ice deformation
  • Ocean freshwater budget


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