Has Arctic Sea Ice Loss Contributed to Increased Surface Melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet?

Jiping Liu * Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, University at Albany, State University of New York, Albany, New York

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Zhiqiang Chen State Key Laboratory of Numerical Modeling for Atmospheric Sciences and Geophysical Fluid Dynamics, and Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China

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Jennifer Francis Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, New Jersey

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Mirong Song State Key Laboratory of Numerical Modeling for Atmospheric Sciences and Geophysical Fluid Dynamics, and Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China

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Thomas Mote Department of Geography, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia

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Yongyun Hu Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, School of Physics, Peking University, Beijing, China

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Abstract

In recent decades, the Greenland ice sheet has experienced increased surface melt. However, the underlying cause of this increased surface melting and how it relates to cryospheric changes across the Arctic remain unclear. Here it is shown that an important contributing factor is the decreasing Arctic sea ice. Reduced summer sea ice favors stronger and more frequent occurrences of blocking-high pressure events over Greenland. Blocking highs enhance the transport of warm, moist air over Greenland, which increases downwelling infrared radiation, contributes to increased extreme heat events, and accounts for the majority of the observed warming trends. These findings are supported by analyses of observations and reanalysis data, as well as by independent atmospheric model simulations using a state-of-the-art atmospheric model that is forced by varying only the sea ice conditions. Reduced sea ice conditions in the model favor more extensive Greenland surface melting. The authors find a positive feedback between the variability in the extent of summer Arctic sea ice and melt area of the summer Greenland ice sheet, which affects the Greenland ice sheet mass balance. This linkage may improve the projections of changes in the global sea level and thermohaline circulation.

Corresponding author address: Jiping Liu, Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, University at Albany, State University of New York, 1400 Washington Ave., Albany, NY 12222. E-mail: jliu26@albany.edu

Abstract

In recent decades, the Greenland ice sheet has experienced increased surface melt. However, the underlying cause of this increased surface melting and how it relates to cryospheric changes across the Arctic remain unclear. Here it is shown that an important contributing factor is the decreasing Arctic sea ice. Reduced summer sea ice favors stronger and more frequent occurrences of blocking-high pressure events over Greenland. Blocking highs enhance the transport of warm, moist air over Greenland, which increases downwelling infrared radiation, contributes to increased extreme heat events, and accounts for the majority of the observed warming trends. These findings are supported by analyses of observations and reanalysis data, as well as by independent atmospheric model simulations using a state-of-the-art atmospheric model that is forced by varying only the sea ice conditions. Reduced sea ice conditions in the model favor more extensive Greenland surface melting. The authors find a positive feedback between the variability in the extent of summer Arctic sea ice and melt area of the summer Greenland ice sheet, which affects the Greenland ice sheet mass balance. This linkage may improve the projections of changes in the global sea level and thermohaline circulation.

Corresponding author address: Jiping Liu, Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, University at Albany, State University of New York, 1400 Washington Ave., Albany, NY 12222. E-mail: jliu26@albany.edu
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