Abstract

Satellite-based cloud, radiation flux, and sea ice records covering 34 years are used 1) to investigate autumn cloud cover trends over the Arctic, 2) to assess its relation with declining sea ice using Granger causality (GC) analysis, and 3) to discuss the contribution of the cloud–sea ice (CSI) feedback to Arctic amplification. This paper provides strong evidence for a positive CSI feedback with the capability to contribute to autumnal Arctic amplification. Positive low-level cloud fractional cover (CFClow) trends over the Arctic ice pack are found in October and November (ON) with magnitudes of up to about +9.6% per decade locally. Statistically significant anticorrelations between sea ice concentration (SIC) and CFClow are observed in ON over melting zones, suggesting an association. The GC analysis indicated a causal two-way interaction between SIC and CFClow. Interpreting the resulting F statistic and its spatial distribution as a relation strength proxy, the influence of SIC on CFClow is likely stronger than the reverse. ERA-Interim reanalysis data suggest that ON CFClow is impacted by sea ice melt through surface–atmosphere coupling via turbulent heat and moisture fluxes. Due to weak solar insolation in ON, net cloud radiative forcing (CRF) exerts a warming effect on the Arctic surface. Increasing CFClow induces a large-scale surface warming trend reaching magnitudes of up to about +8.3 W m−2 per decade locally. Sensitivities of total CRF to CFClow ranges between +0.22 and +0.66 W m−2 per percent CFClow. Increasing surface warming can cause a melt season lengthening and hinders formation of perennial ice.

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