Thin and transient meltwater layers and false bottoms in the Arctic sea ice pack—Recent insights on these historically overlooked features

Smith, Madison M., Angot, Hélène, Chamberlain, Emelia J., Droste, Elise S. ORCID:, Karam, Salar, Muilwijk, Morven, Webb, Alison L., Archer, Stephen D., Beck, Ivo, Blomquist, Byron W., Bowman, Jeff, Boyer, Matthew, Bozzato, Deborah, Chierici, Melissa, Creamean, Jessie, D'Angelo, Alessandra, Delille, Bruno, Fer, Ilker, Fong, Allison A., Fransson, Agneta, Fuchs, Niels, Gardner, Jessie, Granskog, Mats A., Hoppe, Clara J. M., Hoppema, Mario, Hoppmann, Mario, Mock, Thomas ORCID:, Muller, Sofia, Müller, Oliver, Nicolaus, Marcel, Nomura, Daiki, Petäjä, Tuukka, Salganik, Evgenii, Schmale, Julia, Schmidt, Katrin, Schulz, Kirstin M., Shupe, Matthew D., Stefels, Jacqueline, Thielke, Linda, Tippenhauer, Sandra, Ulfsbo, Adam, van Leeuwe, Maria, Webster, Melinda, Yoshimura, Masaki and Zhan, Liyang (2023) Thin and transient meltwater layers and false bottoms in the Arctic sea ice pack—Recent insights on these historically overlooked features. Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene, 11 (1). ISSN 2325-1026

[thumbnail of Smith_etal_elementa_2023_00025]
PDF (Smith_etal_elementa_2023_00025) - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (3MB) | Preview


The rapid melt of snow and sea ice during the Arctic summer provides a significant source of low-salinity meltwater to the surface ocean on the local scale. The accumulation of this meltwater on, under, and around sea ice floes can result in relatively thin meltwater layers in the upper ocean. Due to the small-scale nature of these upper-ocean features, typically on the order of 1 m thick or less, they are rarely detected by standard methods, but are nevertheless pervasive and critically important in Arctic summer. Observations during the Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate (MOSAiC) expedition in summer 2020 focused on the evolution of such layers and made significant advancements in understanding their role in the coupled Arctic system. Here we provide a review of thin meltwater layers in the Arctic, with emphasis on the new findings from MOSAiC. Both prior and recent observational datasets indicate an intermittent yet long-lasting (weeks to months) meltwater layer in the upper ocean on the order of 0.1 m to 1.0 m in thickness, with a large spatial range. The presence of meltwater layers impacts the physical system by reducing bottom ice melt and allowing new ice formation via false bottom growth. Collectively, the meltwater layer and false bottoms reduce atmosphere-ocean exchanges of momentum, energy, and material. The impacts on the coupled Arctic system are far-reaching, including acting as a barrier for nutrient and gas exchange and impacting ecosystem diversity and productivity.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Funding information: MMS was funded by NSF OPP 2138787. JMC was funded by DE-SC0019745, DE-SC0022046, and DE-AC05-76RL01830. MAG, MM and ES were funded through the HAVOC project by the Research Council of Norway, HAVOC, grant no 280292. IF was funded through the AROMA project by the Research Council of Norway, grant no 294396. MAG and MM were funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, project CRiceS, grant no 101003826. LT was funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft DFG through the International Research Training Group IRTG 1904 ArcTrain grant 221211316. SK was funded by the Swedish Research Council, grant 2018-03859. AD, JB, and EJC were funded by NSF OPP 1821900, EJC was additionally funded by an NSF GRFP. DN and MY was funded by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science 18H03745. ALW and KS were funded through the UK Natural Environment Research Council NERC Grants No NE/S002596/1 and NE/S002502/1, respectively. DB was supported by the Netherlands Polar Programme (NWO), Project no 866.18.002. SM and BD are PhD student and research associate, respectively, of the F.R.S.-FNRS and are founded by the F.R.S.-FNRS Project J.0051.20. NF is funded through the BMBF project NiceLABpro (grant 03F0867A). MDS was supported by the US National Science Foundation (OPP-1724551), NOAA Global Ocean Monitoring and Observing Program (FundRef DOI:, and NOAA cooperative agreement (NA22OAR4320151). The Chinese program for MOSAiC was funded by the CAA. TM acknowledges funding from the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) grant NE/W005654/1. ESD was supported by NERC through the EnvEast Doctoral Training Partnership (NE/L002582/1), as well as NERC and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) through the UK Arctic Office. Some of this research was funded by the US National Science Foundation (awards OPP 1807496, 1914781, and 1807163), the Swiss National Science Foundation (grant 200021_188478), and the Swiss Polar Institute (grant DIRCR-2018-004). JS hold the Ingvar Kamprad chair for extreme environments research, sponsored by Ferring Pharmaceuticals. MAW conducted this work under the National Science Foundation Project 2325430.
Uncontrolled Keywords: air-sea gas exchange,arctic ecosystem,arctic sea ice,atmosphere-ice-ocean interactions,mosaic expedition,meltwater,oceanography,environmental engineering,ecology,geotechnical engineering and engineering geology,geology,atmospheric science ,/dk/atira/pure/subjectarea/asjc/1900/1910
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Science > School of Environmental Sciences
University of East Anglia Research Groups/Centres > Theme - ClimateUEA
UEA Research Groups: Faculty of Science > Research Groups > Centre for Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences
Faculty of Science > Research Centres > Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Conservation
Faculty of Science > Research Groups > Environmental Biology
Related URLs:
Depositing User: LivePure Connector
Date Deposited: 11 Mar 2024 10:31
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2024 09:30
DOI: 10.1525/elementa.2023.00025


Downloads per month over past year

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item