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Dynamical Link between the Barents–Kara Sea Ice and the Arctic Oscillation

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  • 1 State Key Laboratory of Marine Environmental Science, and College of Ocean and Earth Sciences, Xiamen University, Xiamen, China
  • 2 Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, Palisades, New York
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Abstract

The recent accelerated Arctic sea ice decline has been proposed as a possible forcing factor for midlatitude circulation changes, which can be projected onto the Arctic Oscillation (AO) and/or North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) mode. However, the timing and physical mechanisms linking AO responses to the Arctic sea ice forcing are not entirely understood. In this study, the authors suggest a connection between November sea ice extent in the Barents and Kara Seas and the following winter’s atmospheric circulation in terms of the fast sea ice retreat and the subsequent modification of local air–sea heat fluxes. In particular, the dynamical processes that link November sea ice in the Barents and Kara Seas with the development of AO anomalies in February is explored. In response to the lower-tropospheric warming associated with the initial thermal effect of the sea ice loss, the large-scale atmospheric circulation goes through a series of dynamical adjustment processes: The decelerated zonal-mean zonal wind anomalies propagate gradually from the subarctic to midlatitudes in about one month. The equivalent barotropic AO dipole pattern develops in January because of wave–mean flow interaction and firmly establishes itself in February following the weakening and warming of the stratospheric polar vortex. This connection between sea ice loss and the AO mode is robust on time scales ranging from interannual to decadal. Therefore, the recent winter AO weakening and the corresponding midlatitude climate change may be partly associated with the early winter sea ice loss in the Barents and Kara Seas.

Corresponding author address: Xiao-Yi Yang, C3-418, Xiping building, Xiang An Campus, Xiamen University, Xiang An Nan Road, Xiamen, Fujian 361102, China. E-mail: xyyang@xmu.edu.cn

Abstract

The recent accelerated Arctic sea ice decline has been proposed as a possible forcing factor for midlatitude circulation changes, which can be projected onto the Arctic Oscillation (AO) and/or North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) mode. However, the timing and physical mechanisms linking AO responses to the Arctic sea ice forcing are not entirely understood. In this study, the authors suggest a connection between November sea ice extent in the Barents and Kara Seas and the following winter’s atmospheric circulation in terms of the fast sea ice retreat and the subsequent modification of local air–sea heat fluxes. In particular, the dynamical processes that link November sea ice in the Barents and Kara Seas with the development of AO anomalies in February is explored. In response to the lower-tropospheric warming associated with the initial thermal effect of the sea ice loss, the large-scale atmospheric circulation goes through a series of dynamical adjustment processes: The decelerated zonal-mean zonal wind anomalies propagate gradually from the subarctic to midlatitudes in about one month. The equivalent barotropic AO dipole pattern develops in January because of wave–mean flow interaction and firmly establishes itself in February following the weakening and warming of the stratospheric polar vortex. This connection between sea ice loss and the AO mode is robust on time scales ranging from interannual to decadal. Therefore, the recent winter AO weakening and the corresponding midlatitude climate change may be partly associated with the early winter sea ice loss in the Barents and Kara Seas.

Corresponding author address: Xiao-Yi Yang, C3-418, Xiping building, Xiang An Campus, Xiamen University, Xiang An Nan Road, Xiamen, Fujian 361102, China. E-mail: xyyang@xmu.edu.cn
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