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Implications for Arctic amplification of changes in the strength of the water vapor feedback

Authors

  • Debjani Ghatak,

    Corresponding author
    1. Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA
    • Corresponding author: D. Ghatak, Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, NJ, USA. (ghatak@marine.rutgers.edu)

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  • James Miller

    1. Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA
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Abstract

[1] One of the major climatic changes apparent over the Arctic Ocean has been the amplified rate at which air temperature has been increasing relative to the global mean. There are multiple factors which play roles in this amplification, including changes in sea ice/albedo, atmospheric circulation, clouds, and water vapor. We investigate the positive feedback on temperature caused by increasing downward longwave radiation flux (DLF) associated with increasing atmospheric precipitable water (PW). The Japanese 25-year Reanalysis and ERA-Interim reanalysis are used to examine the role of the DLF/PW component of the water vapor feedback loop on the enhanced warming in the Arctic between 1979 and 2011. We find a nonlinear relationship between DLF and PW, which suggests that the sensitivity of DLF to changes in PW varies by season, with the highest in winter and the lowest in summer. The positive trends in DLF and PW are widespread over the Arctic during autumn and spring but are centered mainly over the Atlantic sector in winter. The strength of the PW feedback loop depends on both the sensitivity of DLF to changes in PW and the change in PW during 1979–2011. If, in the future, PW were to increase significantly during winter in the central and Pacific sectors of the Arctic, there could be an expansion of Arctic amplification during winter. We also examine the effect of changes in cloud cover and find that such changes account for a much smaller proportion of the changes in DLF than does PW.

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