Arctic Tropospheric Warming: Causes and Linkages to Lower Latitudes
Journal of Climate
Arctic temperatures have risen dramatically relative to those of lower latitudes in recent decades, with a common supposition being that sea ice declines are primarily responsible for amplified Arctic tropospheric warming. This conjecture is central to a hypothesis in which Arctic sea ice loss forms the beginning link of a causal chain that includes weaker westerlies in midlatitudes, more persistent and amplified midlatitude waves, and more extreme weather. Through model experimentation, the
... rimentation, the first step in this chain is examined by quantifying contributions of various physical factors to October-December (OND) mean Arctic tropospheric warming since 1979. The results indicate that the main factors responsible for Arctic tropospheric warming are recent decadal fluctuations and long-term changes in sea surface temperatures (SSTs), both located outside the Arctic. Arctic sea ice decline is the largest contributor to near-surface Arctic temperature increases, but it accounts for only about 20% of the magnitude of 1000-500-hPa warming. These findings thus disconfirm the hypothesis that deep tropospheric warming in the Arctic during OND has resulted substantially from sea ice loss. Contributions of the same factors to recent midlatitude climate trends are then examined. It is found that pronounced circulation changes over the North Atlantic and North Pacific result mainly from recent decadal ocean fluctuations and internal atmospheric variability, while the effects of sea ice declines are very small. Therefore, a hypothesized causal chain of hemisphere-wide connections originating from Arctic sea ice loss is not supported.