Sea Ice and Weather:

Loss of sea ice affects Arctic weather patterns

Current ice extent

Sea ice extent in September 2007, white, compared with average, magenta line. CIRES National Snow and Ice Data Center, University of Colorado Boulder.

In 2007 when the extent of floating sea ice in the Arctic was at a record low, how did the resulting large expanses of open water affect regional weather patterns? That's what CIRES researcher Elizabeth Cassano and her colleagues sought to understand in a modeling and observations study published this week. The team found that as sea ice disappeared, the areas of relatively warm open water began to strongly influence the atmosphere, increasing surface temperatures in the region, and shifting low- and high-pressure zones around most markedly in the fall and winter.

Cassano’s co-authors include scientists from CU Boulder, the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the CIRES National Snow and Ice Data Center

The experiments also indicated that 2007’s summer weather patterns, linked to the large sea ice loss that year, were not forced by sea ice anomalies earlier in the year or during that summer. It is not clear what this means for weather patterns further south, but the work adds to a growing body of literature on the potentially serious effects of dwindling Arctic sea ice.