Month in Review – Arctic Science Edition

Inspired by my recent visits to Judith Curry’s blog this post will bring you links to the latest learned journal articles about Arctic sea ice. Together with occasional excursions into older and wider Arctic papers.

Judith’s “Week in Review” articles seem to last for a month, so this one will probably last for at least a year!

First up is an article apparently written by a regular reader of this humble web site! A University of Alaska article at begins:

In August 2016 a massive storm on par with a Category 2 hurricane churned in the Arctic Ocean. The cyclone led to the third-lowest sea ice extent ever recorded. But what made the Great Arctic Cyclone of 2016 particularly appealing to scientists was the proximity of the Korean icebreaker Araon.

For the first time ever, scientists were able to see exactly what happens to the ocean and sea ice when a cyclone hits. University of Alaska Fairbanks researchers and their international colleagues recently published a new study showing that sea ice declined 5.7 times faster than normal during the storm. They were also able to prove that the rapid decline was driven by cyclone-triggered processes within the ocean.

Note that it didn’t take us 5 years to write about the cyclone in question. Our article catchily entitled “The Great Arctic Cyclone of 2016” was published on August 13th 2016:

A storm is brewing in the Arctic. A big one! The crew of the yacht Northabout are currently sailing along the western shore of the Laptev Sea and reported earlier today that “The sea is calm. Tomorrow a gale 8. But this moment is perfect”.

That perfect moment will not last long.

I interviewed polar explorer David Hempleman-Adams about the succeeding moments once Northabout had returned to the UK. It seems riding out the cyclone was the most frightening experience he had ever had.

The University of Alaska article references the following peer reviewed paper:

Role of Intense Arctic Storm in Accelerating Summer Sea Ice Melt: An In Situ Observational Study

The next on my list of must read papers comes complete with a video:

I don’t know who came up with the “Heat Bomb” misnomer, since it isn’t mentioned in the paper itself:

A warm jet in a cold ocean” by Jennifer MacKinnon et al. from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Unprecedented quantities of heat are entering the Pacific sector of the Arctic Ocean through Bering Strait, particularly during summer months. Though some heat is lost to the atmosphere during autumn cooling, a significant fraction of the incoming warm, salty water subducts (dives beneath) below a cooler fresher layer of near-surface water, subsequently extending hundreds of kilometers into the Beaufort Gyre. Upward turbulent mixing of these sub-surface pockets of heat is likely accelerating sea ice melt in the region.

Last but certainly not least for today is a slightly older review paper:

Understanding Arctic Ocean Circulation: A Review of Ocean Dynamics in a Changing Climate” by Mary‐Louise Timmermans from Yale and John Marshall of MIT.

The Arctic Ocean is a focal point of climate change, with ocean warming, freshening, sea‐ice decline, and circulation that link to the changing atmospheric and terrestrial environment. Major features of the Arctic and the interconnected nature of its wind‐ and buoyancy‐driven circulation are reviewed here by presenting a synthesis of observational data interpreted from the perspective of geophysical fluid dynamics (GFD). The general circulation is seen to be the superposition of Atlantic Water flowing into and around the Arctic basin and the two main wind‐driven circulation features of the interior stratified Arctic Ocean: the Transpolar Drift Stream and the Beaufort Gyre. The specific drivers of these systems, including wind forcing, ice‐ocean interactions, and surface buoyancy fluxes, and their associated GFD are explored. The essential understanding guides an assessment of how Arctic Ocean structure and dynamics might fundamentally change as the Arctic warms, sea‐ice cover declines, and the ice that remains becomes more mobile.

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