Detection of change in the Arctic using satellite and in situ data
Comiso, Josefino C.
Krishfield, Richard A.
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The decade of the 1990s was the warmest decade of the last century, while the year 1998 was the warmest year ever observed by modern techniques, with 9 out of 12 months of the year being the warmest months. Satellite ice cover and surface temperature data, European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (wind), and ocean hydrographic data are examined to gain insights into this warming phenomenon. Areas of ice-free water in both western and eastern regions of the Arctic are found to have followed a cyclical pattern with approximately decadal period but with a lag of about 3 years between the eastern and western regions. The pattern was interrupted by unusually large anomalies in 1993 and 1998 in the western region and in 1995 in the eastern region. The area of open water in 1998 was the largest ever observed in the western region and occurred concurrently with large surface temperature anomalies in the area and adjacent regions. This also occurred at a time when the atmospheric circulation changed from predominantly cyclonic in 1996 to anticyclonic in 1997 and 1998. Detailed hydrographic measurements over the same general area in April 1996 and April 1997 indicate a warming and significant freshening in the top layer of the ocean, suggesting increases in ice melt and/or river runoff. Continuous ocean temperature and salinity data from ocean buoys at depths of 8, 45, and 75 m confirm these results and show large interannual changes during the 1996–1998 period. Surface temperature data show a general warming in the region that is highly correlated with observed decline in summer sea ice, while hydrographic data suggest that in 1997 and 1998, the upper part of the ocean was unusually fresh and warm compared to available data between 1956 and 1996.
Author Posting. © American Geophysical Union, 2003. This article is posted here by permission of American Geophysical Union for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Journal of Geophysical Research 108, C12 (2003): 3384, doi:10.1029/2002JC001347.