MiKlip first phase: SPARCS

Scale Dependent Parametrization of Processes in the Atmospheric Boundary Layer over Arctic Sea Ice

The general goal of SPARCS consists in a study of the consequences of a reduced arctic sea ice concentration on the turbulent processes in the lowest one kilometer (boundary layer) of the atmosphere over the Arctic Ocean.

Atmospheric boundary layer processes over sea ice cannot be modeled in large detail by the present climate models which is due to their low spatial resolution compared with the typical scale of near-surface atmospheric processes and their small-scale variability, especially over fractional sea ice cover. So, the present project aims to overcome this gap by improving physical descriptions (parametrizations) of atmospheric boundary layer turbulence over regions with non-homogeneous sea ice distribution. The main focus will be on the effect of openings in sea ice on the exchange of energy and momentum between ocean, sea ice and atmosphere. Such openings develop due to non-homogeneous sea ice drift (leads) (see Figure 1.) and due to melting (ponds). The new parametrizations  of turbulent processes over non-homogeneous sea ice cover will be developed for atmospheric models with different resolutions and will finally be made available for the MiKlip prediction system ECHAM6/MPIOM.

With this goal the project SPARCS helps to incorporate those processes in climate models that are important for a realistic representation of decadal climate variability. SPARCS uses data of two decades from ship and aircraft campaigns as well as from remote sensing to investigate the impact of the changed sea ice cover on characteristics of the polar atmospheric boundary layer. This helps to achieve a better understanding of the decadal variability of arctic climate processes.

Figure 1: Large differences between the open water temperature in leads and the overflowing air cause convective processes. The figure shows a model result (left: potential temperature in K, right: fluxes of sensible heat in W/m2;. wind direction is from left to right, the lead is between 0 and 1 km distance.)

SPARCS is a joint project of the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) in Bremerhaven and of the University Hamburg (UH). The main project work consists in atmospheric modeling using the meso/microscale model METRAS (Schlünzen, 1990; Lüpkes et al., 2008). It will be supported by the studies based on remote sensing at UH.


  • Development of an improved lead detection algorithm based on  remote sensing data.
  • Investigation of small-scale processes over leads based on observations and modeling using present and future sea ice scenarios
  • Development of parametrizations of the turbulent processes over fractional sea ice cover for climate and weather-prediction models


  • Lüpkes, C. et al., 2008: Modeling convection over arctic leads with LES and a non-eddy-resolvuing microsclae model, J. Geophys. Res., 113, C09028., doi:10.1029/2007JC004099.
    Schlünzen, K.H., 1990: Numerical studies on the inland penetration of sea breeze fronts at a coastline with tidally flooded mudflats, Contr. Atm. Physics, 63, 254-25.



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Alfred-Wegener-Institut für Polar- und Meeresforschung (AWI) AWI Bremerhaven
Dr. Christof Lüpkes

Institut für Meereskunde Universität Hamburg
Prof. Dr. Lars Kaleschke

Lead detection in Arctic sea ice from CryoSat-2: quality assessment, lead area fraction and width distribution

2015 - The Cryosphere, Vol. 9, pp. 1955-1968

Wernecke A. | L. Kaleschke

Parameterization of drag coefficients over polar sea ice for climate models

Mercator Ocean Quarterly Newsletter - Special Issue, 51 , pp. 29-34

Lüpkes, C. | V. M. Gryanik

Variability of Arctic sea-ice topography and its impact on the atmospheric surface drag

2014 - J. Geophys. Res. Oceans, Vol. 119 (10), pp. 6743–6762

Castellani, G. | C. Lüpkes, S. Hendricks, and R. Gerdes

Idealized dry quasi 2-D mesoscale simulations of cold-air outbreaks over the marginal sea ice zone with fine and coarse resolution

2013 - J. Geophys. Res. Atmos., 118, 8787–8813

Chechin, D. G. | C. Lüpkes, I. A. Repina, and V. M. Gryanik