Interannual Variations of Arctic Cloud Types in Relation to Sea Ice

Ryan Eastman Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

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Stephen G. Warren Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

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Abstract

Sea ice extent and thickness may be affected by cloud changes, and sea ice changes may in turn impart changes to cloud cover. Different types of clouds have different effects on sea ice. Visual cloud reports from land and ocean regions of the Arctic are analyzed here for interannual variations of total cloud cover and nine cloud types, and their relation to sea ice.

Over the high Arctic, cloud cover shows a distinct seasonal cycle dominated by low stratiform clouds, which are much more common in summer than winter. Interannual variations of cloud amounts over the Arctic Ocean show significant correlations with surface air temperature, total sea ice extent, and the Arctic Oscillation. Low ice extent in September is generally preceded by a summer with decreased middle and precipitating clouds. Following a low-ice September there is enhanced low cloud cover in autumn. Total cloud cover appears to be greater throughout the year during low-ice years.

Multidecadal trends from surface observations over the Arctic Ocean show increasing cloud cover, which may promote ice loss by longwave radiative forcing. Trends are positive in all seasons, but are most significant during spring and autumn, when cloud cover is positively correlated with surface air temperature. The coverage of summertime precipitating clouds has been decreasing over the Arctic Ocean, which may promote ice loss.

Corresponding author address: Ryan Eastman, Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Box 351640, Seattle, WA 98195-1640. Email: rmeast@atmos.washington.edu

Abstract

Sea ice extent and thickness may be affected by cloud changes, and sea ice changes may in turn impart changes to cloud cover. Different types of clouds have different effects on sea ice. Visual cloud reports from land and ocean regions of the Arctic are analyzed here for interannual variations of total cloud cover and nine cloud types, and their relation to sea ice.

Over the high Arctic, cloud cover shows a distinct seasonal cycle dominated by low stratiform clouds, which are much more common in summer than winter. Interannual variations of cloud amounts over the Arctic Ocean show significant correlations with surface air temperature, total sea ice extent, and the Arctic Oscillation. Low ice extent in September is generally preceded by a summer with decreased middle and precipitating clouds. Following a low-ice September there is enhanced low cloud cover in autumn. Total cloud cover appears to be greater throughout the year during low-ice years.

Multidecadal trends from surface observations over the Arctic Ocean show increasing cloud cover, which may promote ice loss by longwave radiative forcing. Trends are positive in all seasons, but are most significant during spring and autumn, when cloud cover is positively correlated with surface air temperature. The coverage of summertime precipitating clouds has been decreasing over the Arctic Ocean, which may promote ice loss.

Corresponding author address: Ryan Eastman, Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Box 351640, Seattle, WA 98195-1640. Email: rmeast@atmos.washington.edu

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