The Open Atmospheric Science Journal

ISSN: 1874-2823 ― Volume 9, 2015

The Recent Decline of the Arctic Summer Sea-Ice Cover in the Context of Internal Climate Variability

The Open Atmospheric Science Journal , 2008, 2: 91-100

W. Dorn, K. Dethloff, A. Rinke, M. Kurgansky

Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Telegrafenberg A43, D-14473 Potsdam, Germany.

Electronic publication date 13/6/2008
[DOI: 10.2174/1874282300802010091]


By means of a 21-year simulation of a coupled regional pan-Arctic atmosphere-ocean-ice model for the 1980s and 1990s and comparison of the model results with SSM/I satellite-derived sea-ice concentrations, the patterns of maximum amplitude of interannual variability of the Arctic summer sea-ice cover are revealed. They are shown to concentrate beyond an area enclosed by an isopleth of barotropic planetary potential vorticity that marks the edge of the cyclonic rim current around the deep inner Arctic basin. It is argued that the propagation of the interannual variability signal farther into the inner Arctic basin is hindered by the dynamic isolation of upper Arctic Ocean and the high summer cloudiness usually appearing in the central Arctic. The thinning of the Arctic sea-ice cover in recent years is likely to be jointly responsible for its exceptionally strong decrease in summer 2007 when sea-ice decline was favored by anomalously high atmospheric pressure over the western Arctic Ocean, which can be regarded as a typical feature for years with low sea-ice extent. In addition, unusually low cloud cover appeared in summer 2007, which led to substantial warming of the upper ocean. It is hypothesized that the coincidence of several favorable factors for low sea-ice extent is responsible for this extreme event. Owing to the important role of internal climate variability in the recent decline of sea ice, a temporal return to previous conditions or stabilization at the current level can not be excluded just as further decline.

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