Connections between north-central United States summer hydroclimatology and Arctic sea ice variability

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ABSTRACT

Arctic sea ice has been shrinking at unprecedented rates over the past three decades. These cryospheric changes have coincided with greater incidence of global extreme weather conditions, including increased severity and frequency of summer heatwaves and extreme rainfall events. Recent studies identify potential physical mechanisms related to Rossby wave and resonance theories that may attribute the observed changes in extreme summer weather patterns to Arctic sea ice decline. This study explores the linkages between summer Arctic sea ice variability and hydroclimate of the north-central United States (US) during the 1979 to 2013 period. Since 1979, summers with low sea ice conditions have coincided with significant increases in mean, minimum, maximum, and dew point air temperatures. Also apparent are increases in seasonal precipitation, the number of wet days, heavy (>95th percentile) precipitation days, and accumulated precipitation over the region. These moisture changes coincide with atmospheric patterns typically observed during anomalously wet summers, known to prompt flooding across the Upper Mississippi River Valley (UMRV) region. Low sea ice summers have coincided with (1) enhanced southerly air flow and increased activity of the Great Plains Low Level Jet (GPLLJ) over the study area, (2) increased occurrence of moist tropical air masses over the UMRV region, and (3) amplified 500 hPa flow over the Pacific-North American region with a ridge situated over the central-eastern portions of the North American continent emanating from Greenland and the central Arctic basin. The results suggest summer Arctic sea ice variability has been associated with recent hydroclimate anomalies of the north-central United States and the UMRV region and add to our growing knowledge of the connections between a changing Arctic environment and concurrent mid-latitude climate variability.

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