Controls on surface warming by winter Arctic moist intrusions in idealized large-eddy simulations

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Antonios Dimitrelos, Rodrigo Caballero, Annica Ekman


The main energy input to the polar regions in winter is the advection of warm, moist air from lower latitudes. This makes the polar climate sensitive to the temperature and moisture of extra-polar air. Here, we study this sensitivity from an air-mass transformation perspective. We perform simulations of an idealized maritime air mass brought into contact with sea ice employing a three-dimensional large-eddy simulation model coupled to a one-dimensional multilayer sea ice model. We study the response of cloud dynamics and surface warming during the air-mass transformation process to varying initial temperature and humidity conditions of the air mass. We find in all cases that a mixed-phase cloud is formed, initially near the surface but rising continuously with time. Surface warming of the sea ice is driven by downward longwave surface fluxes, which are largely controlled by the temperature and optical depth of the cloud. Cloud temperature, in turn, is robustly constrained by the initial dewpoint temperature of the air mass. Since dewpoint only depends on moisture, the overall result is that surface warming depends almost exclusively on initial humidity and is largely independent of initial temperature. We discuss possible climate implications of this result, in particular for polar amplification of surface warming and the role played by atmospheric energy transports.



Oceanography and Atmospheric Sciences and Meteorology, Physical Sciences and Mathematics


Arctic, mixed-phase clouds, surface warming, surface energy budget


Published: 2022-03-25 06:45

Last Updated: 2022-09-06 09:09

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CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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Data Availability (Reason not available):
The data used in this study is uploaded at the website with assigned doi: 10.5281/zenodo.6347108