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Joseph Sedlar, Matthew D. Shupe, and Michael Tjernström

Abstract

Cloud and thermodynamic characteristics from three Arctic observation sites are investigated to understand the collocation between low-level clouds and temperature inversions. A regime where cloud top was 100–200 m above the inversion base [cloud inside inversion (CII)] was frequently observed at central Arctic Ocean sites, while observations from Barrow, Alaska, indicate that cloud tops were more frequently constrained to inversion base height [cloud capped by inversion (CCI)]. Cloud base and top heights were lower, and temperature inversions were also stronger and deeper, during CII cases. Both cloud regimes were often decoupled from the surface except for CCI over Barrow. In-cloud lapse rates differ and suggest increased cloud-mixing potential for CII cases.

Specific humidity inversions were collocated with temperature inversions for more than 60% of the CCI and more than 85% of the CII regimes. Horizontal advection of heat and moisture is hypothesized as an important process controlling thermodynamic structure and efficiency of cloud-generated motions. The portion of CII clouds above the inversion contains cloud radar signatures consistent with cloud droplets. The authors test the longwave radiative impact of cloud liquid above the inversion through hypothetical liquid water distributions. Optically thin CII clouds alter the effective cloud emission temperature and can lead to an increase in surface flux on the order of 1.5 W m−2 relative to the same cloud but whose top does not extend above the inversion base. The top of atmosphere impact is even larger, increasing outgoing longwave radiation up to 10 W m−2. These results suggest a potentially significant longwave radiative forcing via simple liquid redistributions for a distinctly dominant cloud regime over sea ice.

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Marie-Luise Kapsch, Rune Grand Graversen, Michael Tjernström, and Richard Bintanja

Abstract

The Arctic summer sea ice has diminished fast in recent decades. A strong year-to-year variability on top of this trend indicates that sea ice is sensitive to short-term climate fluctuations. Previous studies show that anomalous atmospheric conditions over the Arctic during spring and summer affect ice melt and the September sea ice extent (SIE). These conditions are characterized by clouds, humidity, and heat anomalies that all affect downwelling shortwave (SWD) and longwave (LWD) radiation to the surface. In general, positive LWD anomalies are associated with cloudy and humid conditions, whereas positive anomalies of SWD appear under clear-sky conditions. Here the effect of realistic anomalies of LWD and SWD on summer sea ice is investigated by performing experiments with the Community Earth System Model. The SWD and LWD anomalies are studied separately and in combination for different seasons. It is found that positive LWD anomalies in spring and early summer have significant impact on the September SIE, whereas winter anomalies show only little effect. Positive anomalies in spring and early summer initiate an earlier melt onset, hereby triggering several feedback mechanisms that amplify melt during the succeeding months. Realistic positive SWD anomalies appear only important if they occur after the melt has started and the albedo is significantly reduced relative to winter conditions. Simulations where both positive LWD and negative SWD anomalies are implemented simultaneously, mimicking cloudy conditions, reveal that clouds during spring have a significant impact on summer sea ice while summer clouds have almost no effect.

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Michael Tjernström, Matthew D. Shupe, Ian M. Brooks, Peggy Achtert, John Prytherch, and Joseph Sedlar

Abstract

During the Arctic Clouds in Summer Experiment (ACSE) in summer 2014 a weeklong period of warm-air advection over melting sea ice, with the formation of a strong surface temperature inversion and dense fog, was observed. Based on an analysis of the surface energy budget, we formulated the hypothesis that, because of the airmass transformation, additional surface heating occurs during warm-air intrusions in a zone near the ice edge. To test this hypothesis, we explore all cases with surface inversions occurring during ACSE and then characterize the inversions in detail. We find that they always occur with advection from the south and are associated with subsidence. Analyzing only inversion cases over sea ice, we find two categories: one with increasing moisture in the inversion and one with constant or decreasing moisture with height. During surface inversions with increasing moisture with height, an extra 10–25 W m−2 of surface heating was observed, compared to cases without surface inversions; the surface turbulent heat flux was the largest single term. Cases with less moisture in the inversion were often cloud free and the extra solar radiation plus the turbulent surface heat flux caused by the inversion was roughly balanced by the loss of net longwave radiation.

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Georgia Sotiropoulou, Michael Tjernström, Joseph Sedlar, Peggy Achtert, Barbara J. Brooks, Ian M. Brooks, P. Ola G. Persson, John Prytherch, Dominic J. Salisbury, Matthew D. Shupe, Paul E. Johnston, and Dan Wolfe

Abstract

The Arctic Clouds in Summer Experiment (ACSE) was conducted during summer and early autumn 2014, providing a detailed view of the seasonal transition from ice melt into freeze-up. Measurements were taken over both ice-free and ice-covered surfaces near the ice edge, offering insight into the role of the surface state in shaping the atmospheric conditions. The initiation of the autumn freeze-up was related to a change in air mass, rather than to changes in solar radiation alone; the lower atmosphere cooled abruptly, leading to a surface heat loss. During melt season, strong surface inversions persisted over the ice, while elevated inversions were more frequent over open water. These differences disappeared during autumn freeze-up, when elevated inversions persisted over both ice-free and ice-covered conditions. These results are in contrast to previous studies that found a well-mixed boundary layer persisting in summer and an increased frequency of surface-based inversions in autumn, suggesting that knowledge derived from measurements taken within the pan-Arctic area and on the central ice pack does not necessarily apply closer to the ice edge. This study offers an insight into the atmospheric processes that occur during a crucial period of the year; understanding and accurately modeling these processes is essential for the improvement of ice-extent predictions and future Arctic climate projections.

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