Summers with low Arctic sea ice linked to persistence of spring atmospheric circulation patterns

Marie Luise Kapsch, Natasa Skific, Rune G. Graversen, Michael Tjernström, Jennifer A. Francis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Scopus citations


The declining trend of Arctic September sea ice constitutes a significant change in the Arctic climate system. Large year-to-year variations are superimposed on this sea–ice trend, with the largest variability observed in the eastern Arctic Ocean. Knowledge of the processes important for this variability may lead to an improved understanding of seasonal and long-term changes. Previous studies suggest that transport of heat and moisture into the Arctic during spring enhances downward surface longwave radiation, thereby controlling the annual melt onset, setting the stage for the September ice minimum. In agreement with these studies, we find that years with a low September sea–ice concentration (SIC) are characterized by more persistent periods in spring with enhanced energy flux to the surface in forms of net longwave radiation plus turbulent fluxes, compared to years with a high SIC. Two main atmospheric circulation patterns related to these episodes are identified: one resembles the so-called Arctic dipole anomaly that promotes transport of heat and moisture from the North Pacific, whereas the other is characterized by negative geopotential height anomalies over the Arctic, favoring cyclonic flow from Siberia and the Kara Sea into the eastern Arctic Ocean. However, differences between years with low and high September SIC appear not to be due to different spring circulation patterns; instead it is the persistence and intensity of processes associated with these patterns that distinguish the two groups of anomalous years: Years with low September SIC feature episodes that are consistently stronger and more persistent than years with high SIC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2497-2512
Number of pages16
JournalClimate Dynamics
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Feb 15 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


  • Arctic sea ice
  • Atmospheric circulation
  • Atmospheric energy transport
  • Climate variability
  • Self organizing maps (SOMs)

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