The Trouble With Sea-Ice

Website Mailing List
September 18, 2015 by Helen Hill
Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 2.47.50 PM

Sea Ice in the Chukchi Sea – Image credit: NASA (

story by Helen Hill


Fueled by the inexorable global demand for energy, extended ice-free conditions in the Arctic are leading to increased pressure to expand oil and gas extraction in the Arctic Ocean Basin. However, conventional oil-spill response measures would be severely inhibited by the presence of sea-ice, raising concerns around how area spills will be handled.

This month we spotlight work by a team of scientists and engineers from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, who have been using MITgcm to explore different spill scenarios in an ocean capped by sea-ice.

In their paper “A Numerical Risk Assessment for Spills from Oil and Gas Activity Around the Arctic Ocean Basin”, Hauke Blanken, Bruno Tremblay, Susan Gaskin, and Alexander Slavin use a regional set-up of the area north of ~55 oN, built on a cubed-sphere grid with a mean horizontal resolution of a little under 20km, supplied by the ECCO consortium to model likely spill scenarios caused by well blow-outs late in the drilling season.

Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 2.42.47 PM

Probability distributions of oil contamination in ocean and/or sea ice after one year, superimposed on sea ice climatology for the ten study locations (marked by red x). Historical ice drift (where available) is shown in white – Image courtesy the researchers.

The majority of oil spill trajectory models delineate spill extent by offline tracking of Lagrangian particles. In the Blanken et al. study, spills are represented as a continuous release of passive tracer at the ocean surface into a forward, coupled sea-ice – ocean model subject to JRA-25 atmospheric forcing fields for the years 1980-2010. The model output is then used to drive an offline algorithm which tracks oil in sea ice.

The complete results of this study will be published in Marine Pollution Bulletin.

To find out more about this work email Hauke


Hauke Blanken has been using MITgcm since May 2014. When not MITgcming he likes to surf and mountain bike.

Ocean simulations in Sea-Ice modelling group at McGill University, he enjoys traveling, music and playing chess with his son Robert.

Alexander Slavin started using MITgcm in 2010. Besides working on Ocean simulations in Sea-Ice modelling group at McGill University, he enjoys traveling, music and playing chess with his son Robert.

This Month’s Featured Publication

Other New Publications from July and August

Irena Balog, Paolo M. Ruti, Isabelle Tobin, Vincenzo Armenio, and Robert Vautard (2015), A numerical approach for planning offshore wind farms from regional to local scales over the Mediterranean, Renewable Energy, Volume 85, January 2016, Pages 395–405, doi: 10.101/j.renene.2015.06.038

Hauke Blanken, Bruno Tremblay, Susan Gaskin, and Alexander Slavin (2015), A Numerical Risk Assessment for Spills from Oil and Gas Activity Around the Arctic Ocean Basin, E-proceedings of the 36th IAHR World Congress, 28 June – 3 July, 2015, The Hague, the Netherlands, pdf

A. R. Bowie, P. van der Merwe, F. Quéroué, T. Trull, M. Fourquez, F. Planchon, G. Sarthou, F. Chever, A. T. Townsend, I. Obernosterer, J.-B. Sallée, and S. Blain (2015), Iron budgets for three distinct biogeochemical sites around the Kerguelen Archipelago (Southern Ocean) during the natural fertilisation study, KEOPS-2, Biogeosciences, 12, 4421-4445, doi:10.5194/bg-12-4421-2015

L. Carone, R. Keppens, and L. Decin (2015), Connecting the dots II: Phase changes in the climate dynamics of tidally locked terrestrial exoplanets, arXiv:arXiv.org1508.00419v1 [astro-ph.EP]

J. Y-K. Cho, I. Polichtchouk, H. Th. Thrastarson (2015), Sensitivity and Variability Redux in Hot-Jupiter Flow Simulations,, arXiv:arXiv:1508.05719v1 [astro-ph.EP]

G. Cossarini, S. Querin, C. Solidoro (2015), The continental shelf carbon pump in the northern Adriatic Sea (Mediterranean Sea): Influence of wintertime variability, online at Ecological Modeling, doi: 10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2015.07.024

D. Goldberg, P. Heimbach, I. Joughin, and B. Smith (2015), Committed near-future retreat of Smith, Pope, and Kohler Glaciers inferred by transient model calibration, online at The Cryosphere Discuss., doi: 10.5194/tcd-9-4459-2015

R Hallberg (2015), Numerical instabilities of the ice/ocean coupled system, CLIVAR Exchanges, No. 65, (vol. 19, no. 2),pdf.

Himansu K. Pradhan, A. D. Rao, Sachiko Mohanty (2015), Generation of internal tides: An interaction of tides with variable topography and coastal geometry, Ocean Science Journal, June 2015, Volume 50, Issue 2, pp 183-194, doi: 10.1007/s12601-015-0014-4

Hoteit, Ibrahim; Gopalakrishnan, Ganesh; Latif, Hatem; Toye, Habib; Zhan, Peng; Kartadikaria, Aditya R.; Viswanadhapalli, Yesubabu; Yao, Fengchao; Triantafyllou, George; Langodan, Sabique; Cavaleri, Luigi; Guo, Daquan; Johns, Burt (2015), The Red Sea Modeling and Forecasting System, EGU General Assembly 2015, held 12-17 April, 2015 in Vienna, Austria. id.4443

W. N. Huiskamp , K. J. Meissner, M. d’Orgeville (2015), Competition between ocean carbon pumps in simulations with varying Southern Hemisphere westerly wind forcing, online at Climate Dynamics pp 1-18, doi: 10.1007/s00382-015-2781-0

Ola Kalén, Karen M. Assmann, Anna K. Wåhlin, Ho Kyung Ha, Tae Wan Kim, Sang Hoon Lee (2015), Is the oceanic heat flux on the central Amundsen sea shelf caused by barotropic or baroclinic currents? Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography, In press, doi: 10.1016/j.dsr2.2015.07.014

Xinfend Liang and Carl Wunsch (2015), Tellus A, 67, 27385, doi: 10.3402/tellusa.v67.27385

Quentin Jamet, Thierry Huck, Olivier Arzel, Jean-Michel Campin, Alain Colin de Verdière (2015), Oceanic control of multidecadal variability in an idealized coupled GCM, Climate Dynamics, online, doi: 10.1007/s00382-015-2754-3

Köhler, P., Hauck, J. ,Völker, C. and Wolf-Gladrow, D. (2015), The role of iron during the open ocean dissolution of olivine in a simulated CO2 removal experiment enhanced weathering, ocean alkalinization, ocean fertilization, Climate Engineering Research Symposium 2015, Berlin, 7 July 2015 – 10 July 2015, link

Mashayek, A., R. Ferrari, M. Nikurashin, and W. Peltier (2015), Influence of enhanced abyssal diapycnal mixing on stratification and the ocean overturning circulation, Journal of Physical Oceanography 2015 ; e-View, doi: 10.1175/JPO-D-15-0039.1

W. J. McKiver, G. Sannino, F. Braga, and D. Bellafiore (2015), Investigation of model capability in capturing vertical hydrodynamic coastal processes: a case study in the North Adriatic Sea, Ocean Sci. Discuss., 12, 1625–1668, doi: 10.5194/osd-12-1625-2015

Newman, L., Talley, L.., Mazloff, M., Galton-Fenzi, B., Ackley, S., Heimbach, P., Massonnet, F., Shi, J., and Sparrow, M. (2015): Southern Ocean community comment on the Year of Polar Prediction Implementation Plan, SOOS Report Series #2, pdf

Pilcher, Darren (2015), Drivers of large lake and marine carbon cycling: A regional to global perspective, Ph.D., THE UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN – MADISON, 2015, 172 pages, link

Iuliia Polkova, Armin Köhl, and Detlef Stammer, 2015: Predictive Skill for Regional Interannual Steric Sea Level and Mechanisms for Predictability. J. Climate, 28, 7407–7419, doi: 10.1175/JCLI-D-14-00811.1

Sannino, Gianmaria; Carillo, Adriana; Pisacane, Giovanna; Adani, Mario; Palma, Massimiliano; Naranjo, Cristina; Struglia, Maria Vittoria (2015), Mediterranean model response to enhanced resolution at Gibraltar and tidal forcing, Journal of the Black Sea/Mediterranean Environment . 2015 Special Issue, Vol. 21, p41-47. 7p.

Semin, Sergey; Kurkina, Oxana; Kurkin, Andrey; Talipova, Tatiana; Pelinovsky, Efim; Churaev, Egor (2015), Current structure of strongly nonlinear interfacial solitary waves, EGU General Assembly 2015, held 12-17 April, 2015 in Vienna, Austria. id.1173

I.V. Shevchenko, , P.S. Berloff (2015), Multi-layer quasi-geostrophic ocean dynamics in Eddy-resolving regimes, online at Ocean Modelling, doi: 10.1016/j.ocemod.2015.07.018

Stranden, Torunn (2015), Tidal Flow through Rough Topography, Bergen Center for Computational Science, Report No, 13, (published April 2015) pdf

Jiexin Xu, Zhiwu Chen, Jieshuo Xie, Shuqun Cai (2015), On generation and evolution of seaward propagating internal solitary waves in the northwestern South China Sea, online at Communications in Nonlinear Science and Numerical Simulation, doi: 10.1016/j.cnsns.2015.08.013

Do you have news about research using MITgcm? We are looking for contributions to these pages. If you have an interesting MITgcm project (ocean, atmosphere, sea-ice, physics, biology or otherwise) that you want to tell people about, get in touch. To make a post, contact Helen