skip to main content

Title: Climate Change Fosters Competing Effects of Dynamics and Thermodynamics in Seasonal Predictability of Arctic Sea Ice

The fast decline of Arctic sea ice necessitates a stronger focus on understanding the Arctic sea ice predictability and developing advanced forecast methods for all seasons and for pan-Arctic and regional scales. In this study, the operational forecasting system combining an advanced eddy-permitting ocean–sea ice ensemble reanalysis ORAS5 and state-of-the-art seasonal model-based forecasting system SEAS5 is used to investigate effects of sea ice dynamics and thermodynamics on seasonal (growth-to-melt) Arctic sea ice predictability in 1993–2020. We demonstrate that thermodynamics (growth/melt) dominates the seasonal evolution of mean sea ice thickness at pan-Arctic and regional scales. The thermodynamics also dominates the seasonal predictability of sea ice thickness at pan-Arctic scale; however, at regional scales, the predictability is dominated by dynamics (advection), although the contribution from ice growth/melt remains perceptible. We show competing influences of sea ice dynamics and thermodynamics on the temporal change of ice thickness predictability from 1993–2006 to 2007–20. Over these decades, there was increasing predictability due to growth/melt, attributed to increased winter ocean heat flux in both Eurasian and Amerasian basins, and decreasing predictability due to advection. Our results demonstrate an increasing impact of advection on seasonal sea ice predictability as the region of interest becomes smaller, implying more » that correct modeling of sea ice drift is crucial for developing reliable regional sea ice predictions. This study delivers important information about sea ice predictability in the “new Arctic” conditions. It increases awareness regarding sea ice state and implementation of sea ice forecasts for various scientific and practical needs that depend on accurate seasonal sea ice forecasts.

« less
 ;  ;  ;  
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Journal of Climate
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
p. 2849-2865
American Meteorological Society
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract The predictability of sea ice during extreme sea ice loss events on subseasonal (daily to weekly) time scales is explored in dynamical forecast models. These extreme sea ice loss events (defined as the 5th percentile of the 5-day change in sea ice extent) exhibit substantial regional and seasonal variability; in the central Arctic Ocean basin, most subseasonal rapid ice loss occurs in the summer, but in the marginal seas rapid sea ice loss occurs year-round. Dynamical forecast models are largely able to capture the seasonality of these extreme sea ice loss events. In most regions in the summertime, sea ice forecast skill is lower on extreme sea ice loss days than on nonextreme days, despite evidence that links these extreme events to large-scale atmospheric patterns; in the wintertime, the difference between extreme and nonextreme days is less pronounced. In a damped anomaly forecast benchmark estimate, the forecast error remains high following extreme sea ice loss events and does not return to typical error levels for many weeks; this signal is less robust in the dynamical forecast models but still present. Overall, these results suggest that sea ice forecast skill is generally lower during and after extreme sea ice lossmore »events and also that, while dynamical forecast models are capable of simulating extreme sea ice loss events with similar characteristics to what we observe, forecast skill from dynamical models is limited by biases in mean state and variability and errors in the initialization. Significance Statement We studied weather model forecasts of changes in Arctic sea ice extent on day-to-day time scales in different regions and seasons. We were especially interested in extreme sea ice loss days, or days in which sea ice melts very quickly or is reduced due to diverging forces such as winds, ocean currents, and waves. We find that forecast models generally capture the observed timing of extreme sea ice loss days. We also find that forecasts of sea ice extent are worse on extreme sea ice loss days compared to typical days, and that forecast errors remain elevated following extreme sea ice loss events.« less
  2. Seasonal predictability of the minimum sea ice extent (SIE) in the Laptev Sea is investigated using winter coastal divergence as a predictor. From February to May, the new ice forming in wind-driven coastal polynyas grows to a thickness approximately equal to the climatological thickness loss due to summer thermodynamic processes. Estimating the area of sea ice that is preconditioned to melt enables seasonal predictability of the minimum SIE. Wintertime ice motion is quantified by seeding passive tracers along the coastlines and advecting them with the Lagrangian Ice Tracking System (LITS) forced with sea ice drifts from the Polar Pathfinder dataset for years 1992–2016. LITS-derived landfast ice estimates are comparable to those of the Russian Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute ice charts. Time series of the minimum SIE and coastal divergence show trends of −24.2% and +31.3% per decade, respectively. Statistically significant correlation ( r = −0.63) between anomalies of coastal divergence and the following September SIE occurs for coastal divergence integrated from February to the beginning of May. Using the coastal divergence anomaly to predict the minimum SIE departure from the trend improves the explained variance by 21% compared to hindcasts based on persistence of the linear trend. Coastal divergencemore »anomalies correlate with the winter mean Arctic Oscillation index ( r = 0.69). LITS-derived areas of coastal divergence tend to underestimate the total area covered by thin ice in the CryoSat-2/SMOS (Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity) thickness dataset, as suggested by a thermodynamic sea ice growth model.

    « less
  3. Abstract. The annual sea ice freeze–thaw cycle plays a crucial role in theArctic atmosphere—ice–ocean system, regulating the seasonal energy balanceof sea ice and the underlying upper-ocean. Previous studies of the sea icefreeze–thaw cycle were often based on limited accessible in situ or easilyavailable remotely sensed observations of the surface. To better understandthe responses of the sea ice to climate change and its coupling to the upperocean, we combine measurements of the ice surface and bottom usingmultisource data to investigate the temporal and spatial variations in thefreeze–thaw cycle of Arctic sea ice. Observations by 69 sea ice mass balancebuoys (IMBs) collected from 2001 to 2018 revealed that the average ice basalmelt onset in the Beaufort Gyre occurred on 23 May (±6 d),approximately 17 d earlier than the surface melt onset. The average icebasal melt onset in the central Arctic Ocean occurred on 17 June (±9 d), which was comparable with the surface melt onset. This difference wasmainly attributed to the distinct seasonal variations of oceanic heatavailable to sea ice melt between the two regions. The overall average onsetof basal ice growth of the pan Arctic Ocean occurred on 14 November (±21 d), lagging approximately 3 months behind the surface freezeonset. This temporal delay was caused by a combinationmore »of cooling the seaice, the ocean mixed layer, and the ocean subsurface layer, as well as thethermal buffering of snow atop the ice. In the Beaufort Gyre region, both(Lagrangian) IMB observations (2001–2018) and (Eulerian) moored upward-looking sonar (ULS) observations (2003–2018) revealed a trend towardsearlier basal melt onset, mainly linked to the earlier warming of thesurface ocean. A trend towards earlier onset of basal ice growth was alsoidentified from the IMB observations (multiyear ice), which we attributed tothe overall reduction of ice thickness. In contrast, a trend towards delayedonset of basal ice growth was identified from the ULS observations, whichwas explained by the fact that the ice cover melted almost entirely by theend of summer in recent years.« less
  4. Abstract Compared to the Arctic, seasonal predictions of Antarctic sea ice have received relatively little attention. In this work, we utilize three coupled dynamical prediction systems developed at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory to assess the seasonal prediction skill and predictability of Antarctic sea ice. These systems, based on the FLOR, SPEAR_LO, and SPEAR_MED dynamical models, differ in their coupled model components, initialization techniques, atmospheric resolution, and model biases. Using suites of retrospective initialized seasonal predictions spanning 1992–2018, we investigate the role of these factors in determining Antarctic sea ice prediction skill and examine the mechanisms of regional sea ice predictability. We find that each system is capable of skillfully predicting regional Antarctic sea ice extent (SIE) with skill that exceeds a persistence forecast. Winter SIE is skillfully predicted 11 months in advance in the Weddell, Amundsen and Bellingshausen, Indian, and West Pacific sectors, whereas winter skill is notably lower in the Ross sector. Zonally advected upper ocean heat content anomalies are found to provide the crucial source of prediction skill for the winter sea ice edge position. The recently-developed SPEAR systems are more skillful than FLOR for summer sea ice predictions, owing to improvements in sea ice concentration andmore »sea ice thickness initialization. Summer Weddell SIE is skillfully predicted up to 9 months in advance in SPEAR_MED, due to the persistence and drift of initialized sea ice thickness anomalies from the previous winter. Overall, these results suggest a promising potential for providing operational Antarctic sea ice predictions on seasonal timescales.« less
  5. Abstract Predictability of seasonal sea ice advance in the Chukchi Sea has been investigated in the context of ocean heat transport from the Bering Strait; however, the underlying physical processes have yet to be fully clarified. Using the Pan-Arctic Ice–Ocean Modeling and Assimilation System (PIOMAS) reanalysis product (1979–2016), we examined seasonal predictability of sea ice advance in early winter (November–December) and its source using canonical correlation analysis. It was found that 2-month leading (September–October) surface heat flux and ocean heat advection is the major predictor for interannual variability of sea ice advance. Surface heat flux is related to the atmospheric cooling process, which has influenced sea ice area in the southeastern Chukchi Sea particularly in the 1980s and 1990s. Anomalous surface heat flux is induced by strong northeasterly winds related to the east Pacific/North Pacific teleconnection pattern. Ocean heat advection, which is related to fluctuation of volume transport in the Bering Strait, leads to decrease in the sea ice area in the northwestern Chukchi Sea. Diagnostic analysis revealed that interannual variability of the Bering Strait volume transport is governed by arrested topographic waves (ATWs) forced by southeasterly wind stress along the shelf of the East Siberian Sea. The contribution ofmore »ocean heat flux to sea ice advance has increased since the 2000s; therefore, it is suggested that the major factor influencing interannual variability of sea ice advance in early winter has shifted from atmospheric cooling to ocean heat advection processes. Significance Statement Predictability of sea ice advance in the marginal Arctic seas in early winter is a crucial issue regarding future projections of the midlatitude winter climate and marine ecosystem. This study examined seasonal predictability of sea ice advance in the Chukchi Sea in early winter using a statistical technique and historical model simulation data. We identified that atmospheric cooling and ocean heat transport are the two main predictors of sea ice advance, and that the impact of the latter has become amplified since the 2000s. Our new finding suggests that the precise information on wind-driven ocean currents and temperatures is crucial for the skillful prediction of interannual variability of sea ice advance under present and future climatic regimes.« less