Relative contributions of atmospheric energy transport and sea ice loss to the recent warm arctic winter

Hye Mi Kim, Baek Min Kim

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28 Scopus citations


The relative contributions of atmospheric energy transport (via heat and moisture advection) and sea ice decline to recent Arctic warming were investigated using high-resolution reanalysis data up to 2017. During the Arctic winter, a variation of downward longwave radiation (DLR) is fundamental in modulating Arctic surface temperature. In the warm Arctic winter, DLR and precipitable water (PW) are increasing over the entire Arctic; however, the major drivers for such increases differ regionally. In areas such as the northern Greenland Sea, increasing DLR and PW are caused mainly by convergence of atmospheric energy transport from lower latitudes. In regions of maximumsea ice retreat (e.g., northern Barents-Kara Seas), continued sea ice melting from previous seasons drive theDLRandPWincreases, consistent with the positive ice-insulation feedback. Distinct local feedbacks between open water and ice-retreat regions were further compared. In open water regions, a reduced ocean-atmosphere temperature gradient caused by atmospheric warming suppresses surface turbulent heat flux (THF) release from the ocean to the atmosphere; thus, surface warming cannot accelerate. Conversely, in ice-retreat regions, sea ice reduction allows the relatively warm ocean to interact with the colder atmosphere via surface THF release. This increases temperature and humidity in the lower troposphere consistent with the positive ice-insulation feedback. The implication of this study is that Arctic warming will slow as the open water fraction increases. Therefore, given sustained greenhouse warming, the roles of atmospheric heat and moisture transport from lower latitudes are likely to become increasingly critical in the future Arctic climate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7441-7450
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number18
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments. Constructive and valuable comments from three anonymous reviewers are greatly appreciated. This study was supported by the KMA R&D Program under Grant KMIPA 2016-6010 and project titled K-AOOS(KOPRI, PM17040) funded by the MOF, South Korea.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 American Meteorological Society.


  • Climate variability
  • Energy budget/balance
  • Longwave radiation
  • Surface fluxes


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