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Doscher, R.; Vihma, Timo; Maksimovich, Elena (2014)
Publisher: Copernicus Gesellschaft Mbh
Languages: English
Types: Article
Subjects: Chemistry, Geophysics. Cosmic physics, QD1-999, Physics, GE1-350, G, Geography. Anthropology. Recreation, Environmental sciences, QC1-999, QC801-809
The Arctic sea ice is the central and essential component of the Arctic climate system. The depletion and areal decline of the Arctic sea ice cover, observed since the 1970's, have accelerated after the millennium shift. While a relationship to global warming is evident and is underpinned statistically, the mechanisms connected to the sea ice reduction are to be explored in detail. Sea ice erodes both from the top and from the bottom. Atmosphere, sea ice and ocean processes interact in non-linear ways on various scales. Feedback mechanisms lead to an Arctic amplification of the global warming system. The amplification is both supported by the ice depletion and is at the same time accelerating the ice reduction. Knowledge of the mechanisms connected to the sea ice decline has grown during the 1990's and has deepened when the acceleration became clear in the early 2000's. Record summer sea ice extents in 2002, 2005, 2007 and 2012 provided additional information on the mechanisms. This article reviews recent progress in understanding of the sea ice decline. Processes are revisited from an atmospheric, ocean and sea ice perspective. There is strong evidence for decisive atmospheric changes being the major driver of sea ice change. Feedbacks due to reduced ice concentration, surface albedo and thickness allow for additional local atmosphere and ocean influences and self-supporting feedbacks. Large scale ocean influences on the Arctic Ocean hydrology and circulation are highly evident. Northward heat fluxes in the ocean are clearly impacting the ice margins, especially in the Atlantic sector of the Arctic. Only little indication exists for a direct decisive influence of the warming ocean on the overall sea ice cover, due to an isolating layer of cold and fresh water underneath the sea ice.