Methane excess in Arctic surface water-triggered by sea ice formation and melting.
ABSTRACT: Arctic amplification of global warming has led to increased summer sea ice retreat, which influences gas exchange between the Arctic Ocean and the atmosphere where sea ice previously acted as a physical barrier. Indeed, recently observed enhanced atmospheric methane concentrations in Arctic regions with fractional sea-ice cover point to unexpected feedbacks in cycling of methane. We report on methane excess in sea ice-influenced water masses in the interior Arctic Ocean and provide evidence that sea ice is a potential source. We show that methane release from sea ice into the ocean occurs via brine drainage during freezing and melting i.e. in winter and spring. In summer under a fractional sea ice cover, reduced turbulence restricts gas transfer, then seawater acts as buffer in which methane remains entrained. However, in autumn and winter surface convection initiates pronounced efflux of methane from the ice covered ocean to the atmosphere. Our results demonstrate that sea ice-sourced methane cycles seasonally between sea ice, sea-ice-influenced seawater and the atmosphere, while the deeper ocean remains decoupled. Freshening due to summer sea ice retreat will enhance this decoupling, which restricts the capacity of the deeper Arctic Ocean to act as a sink for this greenhouse gas.
Project description:Rapid and, in many cases, unprecedented Arctic climate changes are having far-reaching impacts on natural and human systems. Despite state-of-the-art climate models capturing the rapid nature of Arctic climate change, termed Arctic amplification, they significantly disagree on its magnitude. Using a regional, process-oriented surface energy budget analysis, we argue that differences in seasonal energy exchanges in sea ice retreat regions via increased absorption and storage of sunlight in summer and increased upward surface turbulent fluxes in fall/winter contribute to the inter-model spread. Models able to more widely disperse energy drawn from the surface in sea ice retreat regions warm more, suggesting that differences in the local Arctic atmospheric circulation response contribute to the inter-model spread. We find that the principle mechanisms driving the inter-model spread in Arctic amplification operate locally on regional scales, requiring an improved understanding of atmosphere-ocean-sea ice interactions in sea ice retreat regions to reduce the spread.
Project description:Dimethylsulfide (DMS), a gas produced by marine microbial food webs, promotes aerosol formation in pristine atmospheres, altering cloud radiative forcing and precipitation. Recent studies suggest that DMS controls aerosol formation in the summertime Arctic atmosphere and call for an assessment of pan-Arctic DMS emission (EDMS) in a context of dramatic ecosystem changes. Using a remote sensing algorithm, we show that summertime EDMS from ice-free waters increased at a mean rate of 13.3 ± 6.7 Gg S decade-1 (?33% decade-1) north of 70°N between 1998 and 2016. This trend, mostly explained by the reduction in sea-ice extent, is consistent with independent atmospheric measurements showing an increasing trend of methane sulfonic acid, a DMS oxidation product. Extrapolation to an ice-free Arctic summer could imply a 2.4-fold (±1.2) increase in EDMS compared to present emission. However, unexpected regime shifts in Arctic geo- and ecosystems could result in future EDMS departure from the predicted range. Superimposed on the positive trend, EDMS shows substantial interannual changes and nonmonotonic multiyear trends, reflecting the interplay between physical forcing, ice retreat patterns, and phytoplankton productivity. Our results provide key constraints to determine whether increasing marine sulfur emissions, and resulting aerosol-cloud interactions, will moderate or accelerate Arctic warming in the context of sea-ice retreat and increasing low-level cloud cover.
Project description:Ice-albedo feedback due to the albedo contrast between water and ice is a major factor in seasonal sea ice retreat, and has received increasing attention with the Arctic Ocean shifting to a seasonal ice cover. However, quantitative evaluation of such feedbacks is still insufficient. Here we provide quantitative evidence that heat input through the open water fraction is the primary driver of seasonal and interannual variations in Arctic sea ice retreat. Analyses of satellite data (1979-2014) and a simplified ice-upper ocean coupled model reveal that divergent ice motion in the early melt season triggers large-scale feedback which subsequently amplifies summer sea ice anomalies. The magnitude of divergence controlling the feedback has doubled since 2000 due to a more mobile ice cover, which can partly explain the recent drastic ice reduction in the Arctic Ocean.
Project description:In this work, we explore the seasonal relationships (i.e., the phenology) between sea ice retreat, sea surface temperature (SST), and atmospheric heat fluxes in the Pacific Sector of the Arctic Ocean, using satellite and reanalysis data. We find that where ice retreats early in most years, maximum summertime SSTs are usually warmer, relative to areas with later retreat. For any particular year, we find that anomalously early ice retreat generally leads to anomalously warm SSTs. However, this relationship is weak in the Chukchi Sea, where ocean advection plays a large role. It is also weak where retreat in a particular year happens earlier than usual, but still relatively late in the season, primarily because atmospheric heat fluxes are weak at that time. This result helps to explain the very different ocean warming responses found in two recent years with extreme ice retreat, 2007 and 2012. We also find that the timing of ice retreat impacts the date of maximum SST, owing to a change in the ocean surface buoyancy and momentum forcing that occurs in early August that we term the Late Summer Transition (LST). After the LST, enhanced mixing of the upper ocean leads to cooling of the ocean surface even while atmospheric heat fluxes are still weakly downward. Our results indicate that in the near-term, earlier ice retreat is likely to cause enhanced ocean surface warming in much of the Arctic Ocean, although not where ice retreat still occurs late in the season.
Project description:A large retreat of sea-ice in the 'stormy' Atlantic Sector of the Arctic Ocean has become evident through a series of record minima for the winter maximum sea-ice extent since 2015. Results from the Norwegian young sea ICE (N-ICE2015) expedition, a five-month-long (Jan-Jun) drifting ice station in first and second year pack-ice north of Svalbard, showcase how sea-ice in this region is frequently affected by passing winter storms. Here we synthesise the interdisciplinary N-ICE2015 dataset, including independent observations of the atmosphere, snow, sea-ice, ocean, and ecosystem. We build upon recent results and illustrate the different mechanisms through which winter storms impact the coupled Arctic sea-ice system. These short-lived and episodic synoptic-scale events transport pulses of heat and moisture into the Arctic, which temporarily reduce radiative cooling and henceforth ice growth. Cumulative snowfall from each sequential storm deepens the snow pack and insulates the sea-ice, further inhibiting ice growth throughout the remaining winter season. Strong winds fracture the ice cover, enhance ocean-ice-atmosphere heat fluxes, and make the ice more susceptible to lateral melt. In conclusion, the legacy of Arctic winter storms for sea-ice and the ice-associated ecosystem in the Atlantic Sector lasts far beyond their short lifespan.
Project description:Ongoing and projected greenhouse warming clearly manifests itself in the Arctic regions, which warm faster than any other part of the world. One of the key features of amplified Arctic warming concerns Arctic winter warming (AWW), which exceeds summer warming by at least a factor of 4. Here we use observation-driven reanalyses and state-of-the-art climate models in a variety of standardised climate change simulations to show that AWW is strongly linked to winter sea ice retreat through the associated release of surplus ocean heat gained in summer through the ice-albedo feedback (~25%), and to infrared radiation feedbacks (~75%). Arctic summer warming is surprisingly modest, even after summer sea ice has completely disappeared. Quantifying the seasonally varying changes in Arctic temperature and sea ice and the associated feedbacks helps to more accurately quantify the likelihood of Arctic's climate changes, and to assess their impact on local ecosystems and socio-economic activities.
Project description:We discuss the existence of cryospheric "tipping points" in the Earth's climate system. Such critical thresholds have been suggested to exist for the disappearance of Arctic sea ice and the retreat of ice sheets: Once these ice masses have shrunk below an anticipated critical extent, the ice-albedo feedback might lead to the irreversible and unstoppable loss of the remaining ice. We here give an overview of our current understanding of such threshold behavior. By using conceptual arguments, we review the recent findings that such a tipping point probably does not exist for the loss of Arctic summer sea ice. Hence, in a cooler climate, sea ice could recover rapidly from the loss it has experienced in recent years. In addition, we discuss why this recent rapid retreat of Arctic summer sea ice might largely be a consequence of a slow shift in ice-thickness distribution, which will lead to strongly increased year-to-year variability of the Arctic summer sea-ice extent. This variability will render seasonal forecasts of the Arctic summer sea-ice extent increasingly difficult. We also discuss why, in contrast to Arctic summer sea ice, a tipping point is more likely to exist for the loss of the Greenland ice sheet and the West Antarctic ice sheet.
Project description:We carried out upper air measurements with radiosondes during the summer over the Arctic Ocean from an icebreaker moving poleward from an ice-free region, through the ice edge, and into a region of thick ice. Rapid warming of the Arctic is a significant environmental issue that occurs not only at the surface but also throughout the troposphere. In addition to the widely accepted mechanisms responsible for the increase of tropospheric warming during the summer over the Arctic, we showed a new potential contributing process to the increase, based on our direct observations and supporting numerical simulations and statistical analyses using a long-term reanalysis dataset. We refer to this new process as "Siberian Atmospheric Rivers (SARs)". Poleward upglides of SARs over cold air domes overlying sea ice provide the upper atmosphere with extra heat via condensation of water vapour. This heating drives increased buoyancy and further strengthens the ascent and heating of the mid-troposphere. This process requires the combination of SARs and sea ice as a land-ocean-atmosphere system, the implication being that large-scale heat and moisture transport from the lower latitudes can remotely amplify the warming of the Arctic troposphere in the summer.
Project description:The interface layer between ocean and atmosphere is only a couple of micrometers thick but plays a critical role in climate relevant processes, including the air-sea exchange of gas and heat and the emission of primary organic aerosols (POA). Recent findings suggest that low-level cloud formation above the Arctic Ocean may be linked to organic polymers produced by marine microorganisms. Sea ice harbors high amounts of polymeric substances that are produced by cells growing within the sea-ice brine. Here, we report from a research cruise to the central Arctic Ocean in 2012. Our study shows that microbial polymers accumulate at the air-sea interface when the sea ice melts. Proteinaceous compounds represented the major fraction of polymers supporting the formation of a gelatinous interface microlayer and providing a hitherto unrecognized potential source of marine POA. Our study indicates a novel link between sea ice-ocean and atmosphere that may be sensitive to climate change.
Project description:Satellite observations reveal a substantial decline in September Arctic sea ice extent since 1979, which has played a leading role in the observed recent Arctic surface warming and has often been attributed, in large part, to the increase in greenhouse gases. However, the most rapid decline occurred during the recent global warming hiatus period. Previous studies are often focused on a single mechanism for changes and variations of summer Arctic sea ice extent, and many are based on short observational records. The key players for summer Arctic sea ice extent variability at multidecadal/centennial time scales and their contributions to the observed summer Arctic sea ice decline are not well understood. Here a multiple regression model is developed for the first time, to the author's knowledge, to provide a framework to quantify the contributions of three key predictors (Atlantic/Pacific heat transport into the Arctic, and Arctic Dipole) to the internal low-frequency variability of Summer Arctic sea ice extent, using a 3,600-y-long control climate model simulation. The results suggest that changes in these key predictors could have contributed substantially to the observed summer Arctic sea ice decline. If the ocean heat transport into the Arctic were to weaken in the near future due to internal variability, there might be a hiatus in the decline of September Arctic sea ice. The modeling results also suggest that at multidecadal/centennial time scales, variations in the atmosphere heat transport across the Arctic Circle are forced by anticorrelated variations in the Atlantic heat transport into the Arctic.