The Influence of Arctic Sea Ice Thinning on the Atmospheric Boundary Layer

Authors: Victoria Ford*, Climate Science Lab, Department of Geography, Texas A&M University, Oliver Frauenfeld, Climate Science Lab, Department of Geography, Texas A&M University, Chris Nowotarski, Department of Atmospheric Sciences, Texas A&M University
Topics: Cryosphere
Keywords: sea ice thickness, Arctic, turbulent heat fluxes
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Marshall East, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


As one of the most visible indicators of a warming climate, the Arctic sea ice cover has been experiencing a transition from thick, multiyear ice into much thinner, first-year ice. This transition has been observed in sea ice extent and thickness, with variations at different spatial scales. Energy exchange between the Arctic Ocean and atmosphere, through the sea ice pack, is expected to increase with a thinner overlying ice cover, which typically acts as an insulator from the relatively warm Arctic Ocean. Open water heat fluxes exhibit the greatest response in the Arctic atmospheric boundary layer, while thick ice presence results in minimal heat conduction. Polar-optimized Weather Research and Forecasting model simulations assess how a wintertime Arctic boundary layer responds to sea ice thinning via the associated increase in surface air temperature and sensible heat flux exchange. This thermodynamic response increases as sea ice thickness is simulated transitioning from perennial to seasonal ice. Sea ice thicknesses less than 1 meter are sufficient in heating the surface boundary layer in winter despite ice presence. Accurate wintertime sea ice thickness estimates have been shown to determine sea ice coverage in subsequent seasons, thus motivating timely and precise future sea ice thickness prediction in the transitioning seasonal ice regions.

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