Reconstructing the origin and trajectory of drifting Arctic sea ice

S. L. Pfirman, R. Colony, D. Nürnberg, H. Eicken, I. Rigor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

148 Scopus citations


Recent studies have indicated that drifting Arctic sea ice plays an important role in the redistribution of sediments and contaminants. Here we present a method to reconstruct the backward trajectory of sea ice from its sampling location in the Eurasian Arctic to its possible site of origin on the shelf, based on historical drift data from the International Arctic Buoy Program. This method is verified by showing that origins derived from the backward trajectories are generally consistent with other indicators, such as comparison of the predicted backward trajectories with known buoy drifts and matching the clay mineralogy of sediments sampled from the sea ice with that of the seafloor in the predicted shelf source regions. The trajectories are then used to identify regions where sediment-laden ice is exported to the Transpolar Drift Stream: from the New Siberian Islands and the Central Kara Plateau. Calculation of forward trajectories shows that the Kara Sea is a major contributor of ice to the Barents Sea and the southern limb of the Transpolar Drift Stream.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12575-12586
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Issue numberC6
StatePublished - Jun 15 1997
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Oceanography
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)


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