Summer enhancement of Arctic sea-ice volume anomalies in the September-ice zone

  • 2 March 2017
  • Number of views: 483
Summer enhancement of Arctic sea-ice volume anomalies in the September-ice zone

Sea ice in the Beaufort Sea north of Alaska. (Credit: NOAA)

A paper appearing as an early online release in the Journal of Climate documents research on sea ice to understand essential processes in the climate system and other ecological systems.

Researchers focused on the evolution of Arctic sea-ice volume anomalies and found enhanced sea-ice volume anomalies in summer months. The paper states this is because of increased warming resulting from interactions between sea-ice thickness and its ability to reflect sunlight. 

The authors of the paper emphasize the importance of accurately representing ice-reflectivity dynamics in climate models. 

This research was supported by the CPO Climate Variability and Predictability program.

Read the paper


Due to its persistence on seasonal timescales, Arctic sea-ice thickness (SIT) is a potential source of predictability for summer sea-ice extent (SIE). New satellite observations of SIT represent an opportunity to harness this potential predictability via improved thickness initialization in seasonal forecast systems. In this work, the evolution of Arctic sea-ice volume anomalies is studied using a 700-year control integration and a suite of initialized ensemble forecasts from a fully-coupled global climate model. Our analysis is focused on the September sea-ice zone, as this is the region where thickness anomalies have the potential to impact the SIE minimum. The primary finding of this paper is that, in addition to a general decay with time, sea-ice volume anomalies display a summer enhancement, in which anomalies tend to grow between the months of May and July. This summer enhancement is relatively symmetric for positive and negative volume anomalies and peaks in July regardless of the initial month. Analysis of the surface energy budget reveals that the summer volume anomaly enhancement is driven by a positive feedback between the SIT state and the surface albedo. The SIT state affects surface albedo through changes in the sea-ice concentration field, melt-onset date, snow coverage, and ice-thickness distribution, yielding an anomaly in the total absorbed shortwave radiation between May and August, which enhances the existing SIT anomaly. This phenomenon highlights the crucial importance of accurate SIT initialization and representation of ice-albedo feedback processes in seasonal forecast systems.





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