NCEP CFSR reanalysis 6-hourly fields from 1979 to 2015 were used to investigate the relationships of sea ice concentration (SIC), atmospheric stratification, surface roughness, and wind speed at 10-m height (W10) and 850-hPa level (W850). We found that in autumn (September–November), winter (December–February), and spring (March–May) a lower SIC favors less-stable stratification and a higher W10. In autumn, the decrease in SIC is strongest, and SIC has its strongest correlation with the atmospheric stratification, W10, and the ratio of W10 and W850 (WSR). W10 and WSR have increased in autumn, and the negative trends in SIC typically are collocated with positive trends in W10 and WSR. In winter, W850 has negative trends over the Arctic Ocean, which, together with the lack of decrease of SIC in the central Arctic, has prevented W10 from increasing in winter. The winter trends are notably different from those for autumn, but the correlations are fairly similar. In autumn, winter, and spring, the negative correlation between SIC and W10 originated from the reduction of both stratification and aerodynamic surface roughness z0 with a reduction of SIC. The dependence of z0 on SIC is, however, weak in NCEP CFSR. In summer, the ratio of W10 and W850 has increased over large areas. The correlations between SIC and atmospheric variables were stronger on interannual time scales than on subseasonal time scales. The causal relationships are complicated by the two-way interaction between SIC and W10. In most cases, especially in summer, SIC increases after periods of W10 exceeding 5 m s−1.

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