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The contribution of cloud and radiation anomalies to the 2007 Arctic sea ice...

Kay, J. E., T. L'Ecuyer, A. Gettelman, G. Stephens, and C. O'Dell (2008), The contribution of cloud and radiation anomalies to the 2007 Arctic sea ice extent minimum, Geophys. Res. Lett., 35, L08503, doi:10.1029/2008GL033451.

Reduced cloudiness and enhanced downwelling radiation are associated with the unprecedented 2007 Arctic sea ice loss. Over the Western Arctic Ocean, total summertime cloud cover estimated from spaceborne radar and lidar data decreased by 16% from 2006 to 2007. The clearer skies led to downwelling shortwave (longwave) radiative fluxes increases of +32 Wm-2 (-4 Wm-2) from 2006 to 2007. Over three months, simple calculations show that these radiation differences alone could enhance surface ice melt by 0.3 m, or warm the surface ocean by 2.4 K, which enhances basal ice melt. Increased air temperatures and decreased relative humidity associated with an anticyclonic atmospheric circulation pattern explain the reduced cloudiness. Longer-term observations show that the 2007 cloudiness is anomalous in the recent past, but is not unprecedented. Thus, in a warmer world with thinner ice, natural summertime circulation and cloud variability is an increasingly important control on sea ice extent minima.

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