Surface and melt pond evolution on landfast first-year sea ice in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago

Jack Landy*, Jens Ehn, Megan Shields, David Barber

*Corresponding author for this work

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

52 Citations (Scopus)


The evolution of landfast sea ice melt pond coverage, surface topography, and mass balance was studied in the Canadian Arctic during May-June 2011 and 2012, using a terrestrial laser scanner, snow and sea ice sampling, and surface meteorological characterization. Initial melt pond formation was not limited to low-lying areas, rather ponds formed at almost all premelt elevations. The subsequent evolution of melt pond coverage varied considerably between the 2 years owing to four principle, temporally variable factors. First, the range in premelt topographic relief was 0.5 m greater in 2011 (rougher surface) than in 2012 (smoother surface), such that a seasonal maximum pond coverage of 60% and maximum hydraulic head of 204 mm were reached in 2011, versus 78% and 138 mm in 2012. A change in the meltwater balance (production minus drainage) caused the ponds to spread or recede over an area that was almost 90% larger in 2012 than in 2011. Second, modification of the premelt topography was observed during mid-June, due to preferential melting under certain drainage channels. Some of the lowest-lying premelt areas were subsequently elevated above these deepening channels and unexpectedly became drained later in the season. Third, ice interior temperatures remained 1-2°C colder later into June in 2012 than in 2011, even though the ice was 0.35 m thinner at melt onset, thereby delaying permeability increases in the ice that would allow vertical meltwater drainage to the ocean. Finally, surface melt was estimated to account for approximately 62% of the net radiative flux to the sea ice cover during the melt season. Key Points Sea ice surface mass and meltwater balance are measured using LiDAR Variations in melt pond coverage between 2 years and locations are analyzed Ice growth history and thermodynamic evolution control melt pond development

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3054-3075
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 5 May 2014


  • landfast ice
  • melt ponds
  • sea ice
  • thermodynamic evolution


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