Recent changes in pan-Arctic melt onset from satellite passive microwave measurements

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Abstract

[1] A new satellite passive microwave (PMW) melt onset retrieval algorithm based on temporal variations in the differences of the brightness temperature between 19 and 37 GHz is shown to be as effective as radar (e.g., QuikScat) measurements. The PMW technique shows improved melt estimates that are more closely linked to observed snow-off dates than previous studies. An integrated pan-Arctic (north of 50°N) melt onset date (MOD) dataset is produced by combining estimates on land and sea ice for the entire satellite PMW record. During the 1979–2011 period, significant trends of 2~3 days (decade)−1 to earlier MOD are mainly concentrated over the Eurasian land sector of the Arctic, consistent with changes in spring snow cover extent observed with visible satellite data. The variability and change in melt onset are largely driven by spring surface air temperature, with insignificant influence from low-frequency modes of atmospheric circulation.

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