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John E. Walsh, David H. Bromwich, James. E. Overland, Mark C. Serreze, and Kevin R. Wood

Abstract

The polar regions present several unique challenges to meteorology, including remoteness and a harsh environment. We summarize the evolution of polar meteorology in both hemispheres, beginning with measurements made during early expeditions and concluding with the recent decades in which polar meteorology has been central to global challenges such as the ozone hole, weather prediction, and climate change. Whereas the 1800s and early 1900s provided data from expeditions and only a few subarctic stations, the past 100 years have seen great advances in the observational network and corresponding understanding of the meteorology of the polar regions. For example, a persistent view in the early twentieth century was of an Arctic Ocean dominated by a permanent high pressure cell, a glacial anticyclone. With increased observations, by the 1950s it became apparent that, while anticyclones are a common feature of the Arctic circulation, cyclones are frequent and may be found anywhere in the Arctic. Technology has benefited polar meteorology through advances in instrumentation, especially autonomously operated instruments. Moreover, satellite remote sensing and computer models revolutionized polar meteorology. We highlight the four International Polar Years and several high-latitude field programs of recent decades. We also note outstanding challenges, which include understanding of the role of the Arctic in variations of midlatitude weather and climate, the ability to model surface energy exchanges over a changing Arctic Ocean, assessments of ongoing and future trends in extreme events in polar regions, and the role of internal variability in multiyear-to-decadal variations of polar climate.

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