Decline in Arctic Sea Ice Driven by Patterns in the Tropics

  • 20 May 2022
Decline in Arctic Sea Ice Driven by Patterns in the Tropics

Recent decades have shown a decline in Arctic summer sea ice cover, with the lowest sea ice extent recorded in 2012. A new study, funded in part by CPO’s Modeling, Analysis, Predictions, and Projections (MAPP) program, provides evidence that tropical sea surface temperature patterns had a strong influence on the 2012 sea ice anomaly. Researchers from Hanyang University and the University of Hawai’I at Mānoa used the Community Earth System Model version 2 (CESM2) to produce simulations of the connected atmosphere, ocean, and sea ice systems. The model results demonstrate two distinct tropical drivers for the reduction in sea ice. Relatively cool conditions in the tropics in 2010 and 2011 increased atmospheric temperatures in the Arctic, whereas warm tropical sea surface temperatures paired with cooling in the North Pacific in 2012 strengthened a high pressure zone and sea ice movement across the Arctic. The model highlights the key roles of both of these factors in driving the 2012 record low Arctic summer sea ice extent.
Though previous research has suggested a link between tropical sea surface temperatures and Arctic sea ice cover, these results, published in Geophysical Research Letters, provide important insight into the specific patterns contributing to rapid sea ice decline. This study will improve the understanding of the link between the tropics and the Arctic as well as help researchers predict summer Arctic sea ice extent in the future.

Funding for this project was provided in part by the NOAA Climate Program Office, MAPP program.

Read the full study here.



Climate and Fisheries Adaptation Program (CAFA)

MISSION: The Climate and Fisheries Adaptation Program (CAFA) is a partnership between the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (NOAA Research) Climate Program Office, and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) Office of Science and Technology that supports targeted research to promote adaptation and resilience of the nation's valuable fisheries and fisheries-dependent communities in a changing climate. By bringing together NOAA scientists with many partners, CAFA addresses priority needs for information and tools identified in the NOAA Fisheries Climate Science StrategyRegional Action Plans, and other sources.  

ISSUE: Healthy fisheries are a significant component of the U.S. economy. Commercial and recreational marine fisheries generate over $200 billion in economic activity and support more than 1.8 million jobs annually (FEUS 2016). Fisheries also support working waterfronts and coastal communities, provide opportunities for commerce, are tied to rich cultures, and help meet the growing demand for seafood across the U.S. and the world.

Climate change is impacting fish stocks, fisheries, and fishing communities, and these impacts are expected to increase. Changing climate and ocean conditions (e.g. warming oceans, changing currents, coastal inundation, extreme events, etc.) can affect the abundance, distribution, and productivity of fish stocks that support economically important fisheries. Sustainable fisheries management requires an improved understanding of how climate, fishing, and other stressors interact to affect fish stocks (including their habitats and prey), fisheries and fishing-dependent communities.  

PROGRAM HISTORY: The CAFA Program was established by the NOAA Research Climate Program Office and the NOAA Fisheries Office of Science and Technology in 2014 to advance understanding of climate‐related impacts on fish stocks, fisheries and fishing communities. The partnership originated through the former Coastal and Ocean Climate Applications (COCA) Program and in 2021 was renamed the Climate and Fisheries Adaptation (CAFA) Program as part of the Climate Program Office Adaptation Sciences Program.

SPONSORS: Funding for the CAFA Program comes from the OAR Climate Program Office and the NMFS Office of Science and Technology, the Office of Sustainable Fisheries, and the Northeast Fisheries Science Center. 




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