The implementation of Arctic ice management

Counteracting the annual Arctic sea ice loss by distributing sea water on top of sea ice

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The Arctic is warming more rapidly than other latitudes, which can result in the release of additional greenhouse gasses, global sea level rise and increase in extreme weather events. Additionally, this causes the rapid decline of sea ice and an ice free Arctic might occur during the summer in the 2040s. The decreasing sea ice cover accelerates the warming of the Arctic, which is known as the albedo feedback system. Solar radiation management (SRM) can be a solution to diminish or possibly stop sea ice decline. Within SRM a proposed technology, known as Arctic Ice Management (AIM), is distributing water on top of existing sea ice to increase the ice thickness enough to survive the summer melt. This raises the question: What water volume should AIM distribute on top of existing sea ice to counteract the annual Arctic sea ice volume loss? Based on data obtained during the period 1979-2020, the September trends for ice extent, ice area and ice volume are -83 400 km2yr-1, -49 200 km2yr-1 and -322 km3yr-1 respectively. The ice volume is considered as target parameter, as it accounts for both absolute areal ice loss and overall decreasing ice thickness. There are two main ice drift patterns in the Arctic: The Beaufort Gyre in the Beaufort Sea and the Transpolar Drift, of which the latter exports ice through Fram Strait into the Greenland Sea. Literature shows the ice remains within the Arctic for about five years when located in the Beaufort Sea and one to two years when located in the Transpolar Drift. For both locations, the ice decay is determined using an analytical approach first. This approach shows resemblance for ice located in the Beaufort Sea, but generally overestimates the ice decay in the Transpolar Drift. For this reason, an empirical approach is developed to determine the survival ice thickness. This results in accurate trends for ice decay of -2.1 to -2.7 cm day-1 in the Beaufort Sea and -0.8 to -1.4 cm day-1 in the Transpolar Drift. Considering 91 melting days results in an average survival thickness of 2.18 and 1 m respectively. AIM can be used to increase the ice thickness beyond this survival thickness and an AIM model is developed to show ice growth including AIM. The model concludes the AIM thickness, initial ice thickness prior to flooding and freezing duration after AIM define the effective ice thickness increase. The model is validated with small scale experiments, which indicate a delay between the flooding phase and continued natural ice growth. This delay can be the effect of the duration required to restore the temperature profile in the ice after flooding as shown by COMSOL Multiphysics simulations. Considering the AIM model, it is discouraged to implement AIM on ice thicknesses below 0.6 m and suggested for ice thicknesses approaching 1 m or higher to optimize the effective increase. The required water volume to compensate the annual sea ice volume loss highly depends on the location, initial ice thickness and target ice thickness and varies between 707 to 1095 km3 in the Beaufort Sea and between 386 to 464 km3 in the Transpolar Drift for the methods discussed in this research. To pump up this water volume, the expected power requirements are 4.5 to 7.0 GW and 2.5 to 3.0 GW respectively.