Summer enhancement of Arctic sea ice volume anomalies in the September-ice zone

Mitchell Bushuk, Rym Msadek, Michael Winton, Gabriel Andres Vecchi, Rich Gudgel, Anthony Rosati, Xiaosong Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Because of its persistence on seasonal time scales, Arctic sea ice thickness (SIT) is a potential source of predictability for summer sea ice extent (SIE). New satellite observations of SIT represent an opportunity to harness this potential predictability via improved thickness initialization in seasonal forecast systems. In this work, the evolution of Arctic sea ice volume anomalies is studied using a 700-yr control integration and a suite of initialized ensemble forecasts from a fully coupled global climate model. This analysis is focused on the September sea ice zone, as this is the region where thickness anomalies have the potential to impact the SIE minimum. The primary finding of this paper is that, in addition to a general decay with time, sea ice volume anomalies display a summer enhancement, in which anomalies tend to grow between the months of May and July. This summer enhancement is relatively symmetric for positive and negative volume anomalies and peaks in July regardless of the initial month. Analysis of the surface energy budget reveals that the summer volume anomaly enhancement is driven by a positive feedback between the SIT state and the surface albedo. The SIT state affects surface albedo through changes in the sea ice concentration field, melt-onset date, snow coverage, and ice thickness distribution, yielding an anomaly in the total absorbed shortwave radiation between May and August, which enhances the existing SIT anomaly. This phenomenon highlights the crucial importance of accurate SIT initialization and representation of ice-albedo feedback processes in seasonal forecast systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2341-2362
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


  • Albedo
  • Arctic
  • Climate variability
  • Ice thickness
  • Sea ice
  • Seasonal forecasting


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