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J. R. Mioduszewski
,
A. K. Rennermalm
,
D. A. Robinson
, and
L. Wang

Abstract

Spring snowmelt onset has occurred earlier across much of the Northern Hemisphere land area in the last four decades. Understanding the mechanisms driving spring melt has remained a challenge, particularly in its spatial and temporal variability. Here, melt onset dates (MOD) obtained from passive microwave satellite data are used, as well as energy balance and meteorological fields from NASA’s Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications, to assess trends in the MOD and attribute melt onset across much of Arctic and sub-Arctic Eurasia and North America during the spring snowmelt season from 1979 to 2012. Across much of the Northern Hemisphere MOD has occurred 1–2 weeks earlier over this period, with the strongest trends in western and central Russia and insignificant trends across most of North America. Trends in MOD are reflected by those in energy balance terms, with energy advection providing an increasing proportion of melt energy in regions with the strongest MOD trends. Energy advection plays a larger role in melt onset in regions where snow begins melting in March and April, while insolation and longwave radiation drives melt where the MOD occurs in May and June. This implies that there is a potential shift in snowmelt drivers toward those involved in advective processes rather than radiative processes with an earlier MOD. As the high latitudes warm and terrestrial snow cover continues to melt and disappear earlier in the spring, it is valuable to elucidate regional snowmelt sensitivities to better understand regional responses to changing climatological processes.

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Y. Kushnir
,
W. A. Robinson
,
I. Bladé
,
N. M. J. Hall
,
S. Peng
, and
R. Sutton

Abstract

The advances in our understanding of extratropical atmosphere–ocean interaction over the past decade and a half are examined, focusing on the atmospheric response to sea surface temperature anomalies. The main goal of the paper is to assess what was learned from general circulation model (GCM) experiments over the recent two decades or so. Observational evidence regarding the nature of the interaction and dynamical theory of atmospheric anomalies forced by surface thermal anomalies is reviewed. Three types of GCM experiments used to address this problem are then examined: models with fixed climatological conditions and idealized, stationary SST anomalies; models with seasonally evolving climatology forced with realistic, time-varying SST anomalies; and models coupled to an interactive ocean. From representative recent studies, it is argued that the extratropical atmosphere does respond to changes in underlying SST although the response is small compared to internal (unforced) variability. Two types of interactions govern the response. One is an eddy-mediated process, in which a baroclinic response to thermal forcing induces and combines with changes in the position or strength of the storm tracks. This process can lead to an equivalent barotropic response that feeds back positively on the ocean mixed layer temperature. The other is a linear, thermodynamic interaction in which an equivalent-barotropic low-frequency atmospheric anomaly forces a change in SST and then experiences reduced surface thermal damping due to the SST adjustment. Both processes contribute to an increase in variance and persistence of low-frequency atmospheric anomalies and, in fact, may act together in the natural system.

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