Formation of sea ice bridges in narrow straits in response to wind and water stresses

Bhargav Rallabandi, Zhong Zheng, Michael Winton, Howard A. Stone

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12 Scopus citations


Ice bridges are rigid structures composed of sea ice that form seasonally in the many straits and channels of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Driven primarily by atmospheric stresses, these ice bridges are formed when sufficiently thick ice “jams” during the course of its flow between land masses, resulting in a region of stationary compacted ice that is separated from a region of flowing open water (a polynya) by a static arch. Using a continuum description of sea ice that is widely used in climate modeling, we present an asymptotic theory of the process of formation of such bridges in slender channels when the motion of the ice is driven by external wind and water stresses. We show that for an arbitrary channel shape, ice bridges can only form within a range of ice properties that is determined by the channel geometry and the external stress. We then compare the results of our theory with direct numerical simulations and observational evidence. Finally, we provide simple analytical expressions for the mean velocity of the ice flow as a function of the channel shape, the properties of the ice, and the wind and water stresses along the channel.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5588-5610
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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


  • ice bridges
  • sea ice


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