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neXtSIM: a new Lagrangian sea ice model


The Arctic sea ice cover has changed drastically over the last decades. Associated with these changes is a shift in dynamical regime seen by an increase of extreme fracturing events and an acceleration of sea ice drift. The highly non-linear dynamical response of sea ice to external forcing makes modelling these changes and the future evolution of Arctic sea ice a challenge for current models. It is, however, increasingly important that this challenge be better met, both because of the important role of sea ice in the climate system and because of the steady increase of industrial operations in the Arctic. In this paper we present a new dynamical/thermodynamical sea ice model called neXtSIM that is designed to address this challenge. neXtSIM is a continuous and fully Lagrangian model, whose momentum equation is discretised with the finite-element method. In this model, sea ice physics are driven by the combination of two core components: a model for sea ice dynamics built on a mechanical framework using an elasto-brittle rheology, and a model for sea ice thermodynamics providing damage healing for the mechanical framework. The evaluation of the model performance for the Arctic is presented for the period September 2007 to October 2008 and shows that observed multi-scale statistical properties of sea ice drift and deformation are well captured as well as the seasonal cycles of ice volume, area, and extent. These results show that neXtSIM is an appropriate tool for simulating sea ice over a wide range of spatial and temporal scales.

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