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Atmospheric Moisture Transport to the Arctic: Assessment of Reanalyses and Analysis of Transport Components

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  • 1 LGGE, CNRS/UJF, Grenoble, France
  • 2 LGGE, CNRS/UJF, Grenoble, France, and P. P. Shirshov Institute of Oceanology, Moscow, Russia
  • 3 P. P. Shirshov Institute of Oceanology, Moscow, Russia
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Abstract

The atmospheric water cycle of the Arctic is evaluated via seven global reanalyses and in radiosonde observations covering the 1979–2013 period. In the regional moisture budget, evaporation and precipitation are the least consistent terms among different datasets. Despite the assimilation of radiosoundings, the reanalyses present a tendency to overestimate the moisture transport. Aside from this overestimation, the reanalyses exhibit a remarkable agreement with the radiosondes in terms of spatial and temporal patterns. The northern North Atlantic, subpolar North Pacific, and Labrador Sea stand out as the main gateways for moisture to the Arctic in all reanalyses. Because these regions correspond to the end of the storm tracks, the link between moisture transports and extratropical cyclones is further investigated by decomposing the moisture fluxes in the mean flow and transient eddy parts. In all reanalyses, the former term tends to cancel out when averaged over a latitude circle, leaving the latter to provide the bulk of the midlatitude moisture imports (89%–94% at 70°N). Although the Arctic warms faster than the rest of the world, the impact of these changes on its water cycle remains ambiguous. In most datasets, evaporation, precipitation, and precipitable water increase in line with what is expected from a warming signal. At the same time, the moisture transports have decreased in all the reanalyses but not in the radiosonde observations, though none of these trends is statistically significant. The fluxes do not scale with the Clausius–Clapeyron relation because the increasing humidity is not correlated with the meridional wind, particularly near the surface.

Corresponding author address: Ambroise Dufour, Laboratoire de Glaciologie et Géophysique de l’Environnement, 54 rue Molière, BP 96, F-38402 Saint-Martin d’Hères CEDEX, France. E-mail: ambroise.dufour@gmail.com

Abstract

The atmospheric water cycle of the Arctic is evaluated via seven global reanalyses and in radiosonde observations covering the 1979–2013 period. In the regional moisture budget, evaporation and precipitation are the least consistent terms among different datasets. Despite the assimilation of radiosoundings, the reanalyses present a tendency to overestimate the moisture transport. Aside from this overestimation, the reanalyses exhibit a remarkable agreement with the radiosondes in terms of spatial and temporal patterns. The northern North Atlantic, subpolar North Pacific, and Labrador Sea stand out as the main gateways for moisture to the Arctic in all reanalyses. Because these regions correspond to the end of the storm tracks, the link between moisture transports and extratropical cyclones is further investigated by decomposing the moisture fluxes in the mean flow and transient eddy parts. In all reanalyses, the former term tends to cancel out when averaged over a latitude circle, leaving the latter to provide the bulk of the midlatitude moisture imports (89%–94% at 70°N). Although the Arctic warms faster than the rest of the world, the impact of these changes on its water cycle remains ambiguous. In most datasets, evaporation, precipitation, and precipitable water increase in line with what is expected from a warming signal. At the same time, the moisture transports have decreased in all the reanalyses but not in the radiosonde observations, though none of these trends is statistically significant. The fluxes do not scale with the Clausius–Clapeyron relation because the increasing humidity is not correlated with the meridional wind, particularly near the surface.

Corresponding author address: Ambroise Dufour, Laboratoire de Glaciologie et Géophysique de l’Environnement, 54 rue Molière, BP 96, F-38402 Saint-Martin d’Hères CEDEX, France. E-mail: ambroise.dufour@gmail.com
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