The Arctic summer sea ice area has been rapidly decreasing in recent decades. In addition to this trend, substantial interannual variability is present, as is highlighted by the recovery in sea ice area in 2013 following the record minimum in 2012. This interannual variability of the Arctic summer sea ice area has been attributed to the springtime weather disturbances. Here, by utilizing reanalysis- and satellite-based sea ice data, this study shows that summers with unusually small sea ice area are preceded by winters with anomalously strong downward longwave radiation over the Eurasian sector of the Arctic Ocean. This anomalous wintertime radiative forcing at the surface is up to 10-15 Wm-2, which is about twice as strong than that during the spring. During the same winters, the poleward moisture and warm-air intrusions into the Eurasian sector of the Arctic Ocean are anomalously strong and the resulting moisture convergence field closely resembles positive anomalies in column-integrated water vapor and tropospheric temperature. Climate model simulations support the above-mentioned findings and further show that the anomalously strong wintertime radiative forcing can decrease sea ice thickness over wide areas of the Arctic Ocean, especially over the Eurasian sector. During the winters preceding the anomalously small summer sea ice area, the upper ocean of the model is anomalously warm over the Barents Sea, indicating that the upper-ocean heat content contributes to winter sea ice thinning. Finally, mass divergence by ice drift in the preceding winter and spring contributes to the thinning of sea ice over the East Siberian and Chukchi Seas, where radiative forcing and upper-ocean heat content anomalies are relatively weak.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Atmospheric Science