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Publication Date
10 May 2022

MPAS-Seaice (v1.0.0): sea-ice dynamics on unstructured Voronoi meshes



We present MPAS-Seaice, a sea-ice model which uses the Model for Prediction Across Scales (MPAS) framework and spherical centroidal Voronoi tessellation (SCVT) unstructured meshes. As well as SCVT meshes, MPAS-Seaice can run on the traditional quadrilateral grids used by sea-ice models such as CICE. The MPAS-Seaice velocity solver uses the elastic–viscous–plastic (EVP) rheology and the variational discretization of the internal stress divergence operator used by CICE, but adapted for the polygonal cells of MPAS meshes, or alternatively an integral (“finite-volume”) formulation of the stress divergence operator. An incremental remapping advection scheme is used for mass and tracer transport. We validate these formulations with idealized test cases, both planar and on the sphere. The variational scheme displays lower errors than the finite-volume formulation for the strain rate operator but higher errors for the stress divergence operator. The variational stress divergence operator displays increased errors around the pentagonal cells of a quasi-uniform mesh, which is ameliorated with an alternate formulation for the operator. MPAS-Seaice shares the sophisticated column physics and biogeochemistry of CICE and when used with quadrilateral meshes can reproduce the results of CICE. We have used global simulations with realistic forcing to validate MPAS-Seaice against similar simulations with CICE and against observations. We find very similar results compared to CICE, with differences explained by minor differences in implementation such as with interpolation between the primary and dual meshes at coastlines. We have assessed the computational performance of the model, which, because it is unstructured, runs with 70 % of the throughput of CICE for a comparison quadrilateral simulation. The SCVT meshes used by MPAS-Seaice allow removal of equatorial model cells and flexibility in domain decomposition, improving model performance. MPAS-Seaice is the current sea-ice component of the Energy Exascale Earth System Model (E3SM).

Turner, Adrian K., William H. Lipscomb, Elizabeth C. Hunke, Douglas W. Jacobsen​​​​​​​, Nicole Jeffery, Darren Engwirda, Todd D. Ringler, and Jonathan D. Wolfe. 2022. “Mpas-Seaice (V1.0.0): Sea-Ice Dynamics On Unstructured Voronoi Meshes”. Geoscientific Model Development 15 (9). Copernicus GmbH: 3721-3751. doi:10.5194/gmd-15-3721-2022.
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