Impact of atmospheric rivers on Arctic sea ice variations

Li, Linghan; Cannon, Forest; Mazloff, Matthew R.; Subramanian, Aneesh C.; Wilson, Anna M.; Ralph, Fred Martin

Arctic sea ice has been declining rapidly in recent decades. We investigate how the poleward transport of moisture and heat from lower latitudes through atmospheric rivers (ARs) influences Arctic sea ice variations. We use hourly ERA5 (fifth-generation European Reanalysis) data for 1981–2020 at 0.25inline-formulainline-formula× 0.25inline-formula resolution to examine the meteorological conditions and sea ice changes associated with ARs in the Arctic. In the years 2012 and 2020, which had an extremely low summer Arctic sea ice extent, we show that the individual AR events associated with large cyclones initiate a rapid sea ice decrease through turbulent heat fluxes and winds. We carry out further statistical analysis of the meteorological conditions and sea ice variations for 1981–2020 over the entire Arctic Ocean. We find that on weather timescales the atmospheric moisture content anticorrelates significantly with the sea ice concentration tendency almost everywhere in the Arctic Ocean, while the dynamic sea ice motion driven by northward winds further reduces the sea ice concentration.

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Li, Linghan / Cannon, Forest / Mazloff, Matthew R. / et al: Impact of atmospheric rivers on Arctic sea ice variations. 2024. Copernicus Publications.

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