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G. I. Belchansky, D. C. Douglas, and N. G. Platonov

Abstract

Melt onset dates, freeze onset dates, and melt season duration were estimated over Arctic sea ice, 1979–2001, using passive microwave satellite imagery and surface air temperature data. Sea ice melt duration for the entire Northern Hemisphere varied from a 104-day minimum in 1983 and 1996 to a 124-day maximum in 1989. Ranges in melt duration were highest in peripheral seas, numbering 32, 42, 44, and 51 days in the Laptev, Barents-Kara, East Siberian, and Chukchi Seas, respectively. In the Arctic Ocean, average melt duration varied from a 75-day minimum in 1987 to a 103-day maximum in 1989. On average, melt onset in annual ice began 10.6 days earlier than perennial ice, and freeze onset in perennial ice commenced 18.4 days earlier than annual ice. Average annual melt dates, freeze dates, and melt durations in annual ice were significantly correlated with seasonal strength of the Arctic Oscillation (AO). Following high-index AO winters (January–March), spring melt tended to be earlier and autumn freeze later, leading to longer melt season durations. The largest increases in melt duration were observed in the eastern Siberian Arctic, coincident with cyclonic low pressure and ice motion anomalies associated with high-index AO phases. Following a positive AO shift in 1989, mean annual melt duration increased 2–3 weeks in the northern East Siberian and Chukchi Seas. Decreasing correlations between consecutive-year maps of melt onset in annual ice during 1979–2001 indicated increasing spatial variability and unpredictability in melt distributions from one year to the next. Despite recent declines in the winter AO index, recent melt distributions did not show evidence of reestablishing spatial patterns similar to those observed during the 1979–88 low-index AO period. Recent freeze distributions have become increasingly similar to those observed during 1979–88, suggesting a recurrent spatial pattern of freeze chronology under low-index AO conditions.

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G. I. Belchansky, D. C. Douglas, and N. G. Platonov

Abstract

Sea ice thickness (SIT) is a key parameter of scientific interest because understanding the natural spatiotemporal variability of ice thickness is critical for improving global climate models. In this paper, changes in Arctic SIT during 1982–2003 are examined using a neural network (NN) algorithm trained with in situ submarine ice draft and surface drilling data. For each month of the study period, the NN individually estimated SIT of each ice-covered pixel (25-km resolution) based on seven geophysical parameters (four shortwave and longwave radiative fluxes, surface air temperature, ice drift velocity, and ice divergence/convergence) that were cumulatively summed at each monthly position along the pixel’s previous 3-yr drift track (or less if the ice was <3 yr old). Average January SIT increased during 1982–88 in most regions of the Arctic (+7.6 ± 0.9 cm yr−1), decreased through 1996 Arctic-wide (−6.1 ± 1.2 cm yr−1), then modestly increased through 2003 mostly in the central Arctic (+2.1 ± 0.6 cm yr−1). Net ice volume change in the Arctic Ocean from 1982 to 2003 was negligible, indicating that cumulative ice growth had largely replaced the estimated 45 000 km3 of ice lost by cumulative export. Above 65°N, total annual ice volume and interannual volume changes were correlated with the Arctic Oscillation (AO) at decadal and annual time scales, respectively. Late-summer ice thickness and total volume varied proportionally until the mid-1990s, but volume did not increase commensurate with the thickening during 1996–2002. The authors speculate that decoupling of the ice thickness–volume relationship resulted from two opposing mechanisms with different latitudinal expressions: a recent quasi-decadal shift in atmospheric circulation patterns associated with the AO’s neutral state facilitated ice thickening at high latitudes while anomalously warm thermal forcing thinned and melted the ice cap at its periphery.

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I. V. Polyakov, V. A. Alexeev, G. I. Belchansky, I. A. Dmitrenko, V. V. Ivanov, S. A. Kirillov, A. A. Korablev, M. Steele, L. A. Timokhov, and I. Yashayaev

Abstract

Recent observations show dramatic changes of the Arctic atmosphere–ice–ocean system. Here the authors demonstrate, through the analysis of a vast collection of previously unsynthesized observational data, that over the twentieth century the central Arctic Ocean became increasingly saltier with a rate of freshwater loss of 239 ± 270 km3 decade−1. In contrast, long-term (1920–2003) freshwater content (FWC) trends over the Siberian shelf show a general freshening tendency with a rate of 29 ± 50 km3 decade−1. These FWC trends are modulated by strong multidecadal variability with sustained and widespread patterns. Associated with this variability, the FWC record shows two periods in the 1920s–30s and in recent decades when the central Arctic Ocean was saltier, and two periods in the earlier century and in the 1940s–70s when it was fresher. The current analysis of potential causes for the recent central Arctic Ocean salinification suggests that the FWC anomalies generated on Arctic shelves (including anomalies resulting from river discharge inputs) and those caused by net atmospheric precipitation were too small to trigger long-term FWC variations in the central Arctic Ocean; to the contrary, they tend to moderate the observed long-term central-basin FWC changes. Variability of the intermediate Atlantic Water did not have apparent impact on changes of the upper–Arctic Ocean water masses. The authors’ estimates suggest that ice production and sustained draining of freshwater from the Arctic Ocean in response to winds are the key contributors to the salinification of the upper Arctic Ocean over recent decades. Strength of the export of Arctic ice and water controls the supply of Arctic freshwater to subpolar basins while the intensity of the Arctic Ocean FWC anomalies is of less importance. Observational data demonstrate striking coherent long-term variations of the key Arctic climate parameters and strong coupling of long-term changes in the Arctic–North Atlantic climate system. Finally, since the high-latitude freshwater plays a crucial role in establishing and regulating global thermohaline circulation, the long-term variations of the freshwater content discussed here should be considered when assessing climate change and variability.

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