Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres

Cover image for Vol. 121 Issue 21

Impact Factor: 3.318

ISI Journal Citation Reports © Ranking: 2015: 27/184 (Geosciences Multidisciplinary)

Online ISSN: 2169-8996

Associated Title(s): Journal of Geophysical Research

Building an atlas of Arctic climate dynamics

The oceans and atmosphere act as a giant heat mixer. However, they do not spread energy evenly across the planet-the overall effect is a net poleward transfer of energy. While it is known that this energy is predominantly moved by traveling air packets and heat exchange between different media, what is less well understood is how these mechanisms interact over small scales to produce regional patterns of temperature. Understanding these interactions is particularly pressing in the Arctic, where an amplified response to greenhouse gas-induced global warming could potentially skew the relationship between these mechanisms, thereby triggering serious changes in climate dynamics. To sort out the primary forces dictating regional Arctic temperature anomalies, and to determine if they are changing with global warming, Serreze et al. (2011) compiled records of sea surface temperature, sea ice extent, wind speed and direction, atmospheric temperature, and snow cover stretching back to 1979. The researchers determined that wind direction is overall one of the most powerful dictators of local weather, being associated with temperature swings of up to 10oC for some areas. The authors also found that if wind passes over regions affected by spikes in sea surface temperature or dips in sea ice cover, these anomalies could be spread to surrounding areas. Although the researchers did not identify any particular changes in the balance of regional energy transfer mechanisms, they did find that the past 30 years have seen a dramatic positive temperature anomaly for all areas and wind directions, which they attribute to background global warming.

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