Springtime atmospheric energy transport and the control of Arctic summer sea-ice extent
2013 (English)In: Nature Climate Change, ISSN 1758-678X, E-ISSN 1758-6798, Vol. 3, no 8, 744-748 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
The summer sea-ice extent in the Arctic has decreased in recent decades, a feature that has become one of the most distinct signals of the continuing climate change. However, the interannual variability is large—the ice extent by the end of the summer varies by several million square kilometres from year to year. The underlying processes driving this year-to-year variability are not well understood. Here we demonstrate that the greenhouse effect associated with clouds and water vapour in spring is crucial for the development of the sea ice during the subsequent months. In years where the end-of-summer sea-ice extent is well below normal, a significantly enhanced transport of humid air is evident during spring into the region where the ice retreat is encountered. This enhanced transport of humid air leads to an anomalous convergence of humidity, and to an increase of the cloudiness. The increase of the cloudiness and humidity results in an enhancement of the greenhouse effect. As a result, downward long-wave radiation at the surface is larger than usual in spring, which enhances the ice melt. In addition, the increase of clouds causes an increase of the reflection of incoming solar radiation. This leads to the counterintuitive effect: for years with little sea ice in September, the downwelling short-wave radiation at the surface is smaller than usual. That is, the downwelling short-wave radiation is not responsible for the initiation of the ice anomaly but acts as an amplifying feedback once the melt is started.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2013. Vol. 3, no 8, 744-748 p.
Arctic, Climate Science, Sea-ice
Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences
Research subject Atmospheric Sciences and Oceanography
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-89610DOI: 10.1038/NCLIMATE1884ISI: 000324487400024OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-89610DiVA: diva2:619234
FunderSwedish Research Council Formas, 2142009389