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


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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