Rapid arctic sea ice loss on the synoptic time scale and related atmospheric circulation anomalies

Zhuo Wang, John Walsh, Sarah Szymborski, Melinda Peng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Large sea ice loss on the synoptic time scale is examined in various subregions in the Arctic as well as at the pan-Arctic scale. It is found that the frequency of large daily sea ice loss (LDSIL) days is significantly correlated with the September sea ice extent over the Beaufort-Chukchi-Siberian Seas, the Laptev-Kara Seas, the central Arctic, and the all-Arctic regions, indicating a link between the synoptic sea ice variability and the interannual variability of the annual minimum sea ice extent. A composite analysis reveals dipoles of anomalous cyclones and anticyclones associated with LDSIL days. Different from the well-known Arctic dipole pattern, the east-west dipoles are found over the corresponding regions of LDSIL in the Arctic marginal seas and are associated with the increasing occurrence of Rossby wave breaking and atmospheric rivers. The anticyclones of the dipoles are persistent and quasi-stationary, reminiscent of blocking. The anomalous poleward flow between the cyclone and the anticyclone enhances the poleward transport of heat and water vapor in the lower troposphere. Although enhanced downward shortwave radiation, associated with reduced cloud fraction, is found in some regions, it is not collocated with the regions of LDSIL. In contrast, enhanced downward longwave radiation owing to increasing column water vapor shows good spatial correspondence with LDSIL, indicating the importance of atmospheric rivers in LDSIL events. Lead/lag composites with respect to the onset of LDSIL episodes reveal precursor wave trains spanning the midlatitudes. The wave trains have predominantly zonal energy propagation in the midlatitudes and do not show a clear link to tropical or subtropical forcing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1597-1617
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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