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Characterizing the size and shape of sea ice floes

Abstract : Monitoring drift ice in the Arctic and Antarctic regions directly and by remote sensing is important for the study of climate, but a unified modeling framework is lacking. Hence, interpretation of the data, as well as the decision of what to measure, represent a challenge for different fields of science. To address this point, we analyzed, using statistical physics tools, satellite images of sea ice from four different locations in both the northern and southern hemispheres, and measured the size and the elongation of ice floes (floating pieces of ice). We find that (i) floe size follows a distribution that can be characterized with good approximation by a single length scale , which we discuss in the framework of stochastic fragmentation models, and (ii) the deviation of their shape from circularity is reproduced with remarkable precision by a geometric model of coalescence by freezing, based on random Voronoi tessellations, with a single free parameter expressing the shape disorder. Although the physical interpretations remain open, this advocates the parameters and as two independent indicators of the environment in the polar regions, which are easily accessible by remote sensing.
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Marco Gherardi, Marco Cosentino Lagomarsino. Characterizing the size and shape of sea ice floes. Scientific Reports, Nature Publishing Group, 2015, 5, pp.10226. ⟨10.1038/srep10226⟩. ⟨hal-01223262⟩

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