Many of the processes associated with sea ice are complicated and difficult to observe, such as brine migration, internal stresses, deformation of the ice pack, the extent of basal melting, and basin-scale ice thickness distributions. However, sea ice is such a recognized, fundamental part of the climate system that most climate models include some treatment of sea-ice dynamics and thermodynamics.
Spatial and temporal patterns of sea-ice variability have many affects on the ocean and atmosphere. Sea ice is unique in its ability to shift seasonally large areas of open ocean to something that is essentially land, ther-modynamically and physically. Atmospheric and oceanic conditions at high latitudes cannot be simulated well without a good representation of sea ice. This is also true of biogeochemical and water vapor fluxes between the ocean and atmosphere, with interesting and poorly understood feedbacks on the high-latitude hydrological cycle, cloud conditions, and gas and aerosol exchanges. A full exploration of these topics is beyond the scope of this overview, but I return to some of these processes in chapters 8 and 9.
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