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Kevin R. Wood and James E. Overland

A unique glimpse of the Arctic from a period before the present era of climate warming is found in the records of the first International Polar Year (IPY) of 1882–83. Inspired by the Austrian scientist and explorer Carl Weyprecht, the purpose of the IPY was to discover the fundamental laws governing global meteorological and geophysical phenomena. It was understood that new discoveries would depend upon a program of simultaneous observations that encompassed the polar regions. The collection and analysis of the first series of coordinated meteorological observations ever obtained in the Arctic was one of the principal objects of the IPY. The field program was successfully completed and a vast body of data was collected, but afterward it fell into obscurity with little analysis completed.

We have analyzed for the first time the synchronous meteorological observations recorded during the first IPY. This analysis contributes to the goal of the upcoming fourth IPY scheduled for 2007–08: to understand the climate changes currently unfolding in the Arctic/Antarctic within the context of the past. We found that surface air temperature (SAT) and sea level pressure (SLP) observed during 1882–83 were within the limits of recent climatology, but with a slight skew toward colder temperatures, and showed a wide range of variability from place to place over the course of the year, which is a feature typical of the Arctic climate today. Monthly SAT, SLP, and associated phenological anomalies were regionally coherent and consistent with patterns of variability in the atmospheric circulation such as the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). Evidence of a strong NAO signature in the observed SAT anomalies during the first IPY highlights the impact of large-scale atmospheric circulation patterns on regional climate variability in the Arctic, both today and in the past.

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Axel J. Schweiger, Kevin R. Wood, and Jinlun Zhang

Abstract

PIOMAS-20C, an Arctic sea ice reconstruction for 1901–2010, is produced by forcing the Pan-Arctic Ice Ocean Modeling and Assimilation System (PIOMAS) with ERA-20C atmospheric data. ERA-20C performance over Arctic sea ice is assessed by comparisons with measurements and data from other reanalyses. ERA-20C performs similarly with respect to the annual cycle of downwelling radiation, air temperature, and wind speed compared to reanalyses with more extensive data assimilation such as ERA-Interim and MERRA. PIOMAS-20C sea ice thickness and volume are then compared with in situ and aircraft remote sensing observations for the period of ~1950–2010. Error statistics are similar to those for PIOMAS. We compare the magnitude and patterns of sea ice variability between the first half of the twentieth century (1901–40) and the more recent period (1980–2010), both marked by sea ice decline in the Arctic. The first period contains the so-called early-twentieth-century warming (ETCW; ~1920–40) during which the Atlantic sector saw a significant decline in sea ice volume, but the Pacific sector did not. The sea ice decline over the 1979–2010 period is pan-Arctic and 6 times larger than the net decline during the 1901–40 period. Sea ice volume trends reconstructed solely from surface temperature anomalies are smaller than PIOMAS-20C, suggesting that mechanisms other than warming, such as changes in ice motion and deformation, played a significant role in determining sea ice volume trends during both periods.

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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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Kevin R. Wood, Steven R. Jayne, Calvin W. Mordy, Nicholas Bond, James E. Overland, Carol Ladd, Phyllis J. Stabeno, Alexander K. Ekholm, Pelle E. Robbins, Mary-Beth Schreck, Rebecca Heim, and Janet Intrieri

Abstract

Seasonally ice-covered marginal seas are among the most difficult regions in the Arctic to study. Physical constraints imposed by the variable presence of sea ice in all stages of growth and melt make the upper water column and air–sea ice interface especially challenging to observe. At the same time, the flow of solar energy through Alaska’s marginal seas is one of the most important regulators of their weather and climate, sea ice cover, and ecosystems. The deficiency of observing systems in these areas hampers forecast services in the region and is a major contributor to large uncertainties in modeling and related climate projections. The Arctic Heat Open Science Experiment strives to fill this observation gap with an array of innovative autonomous floats and other near-real-time weather and ocean sensing systems. These capabilities allow continuous monitoring of the seasonally evolving state of the Chukchi Sea, including its heat content. Data collected by this project are distributed in near–real time on project websites and on the Global Telecommunications System (GTS), with the objectives of (i) providing timely delivery of observations for use in weather and sea ice forecasts, for model, and for reanalysis applications and (ii) supporting ongoing research activities across disciplines. This research supports improved forecast services that protect and enhance the safety and economic viability of maritime and coastal community activities in Alaska. Data are free and open to all (see www.pmel.noaa.gov/arctic-heat/).

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