The impact of a seasonally ice free Arctic Ocean on the temperature, precipitation and surface mass balance of Svalbard 1School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
10 Jan 2012
2RIGC/JAMSTEC, Yokohama Institute for Earth Sciences, Yokohama, Japan
3Norsk Polarinstitutt, Polar Environment Centre, Tromsø, Norway
Received: 24 June 2011 – Published in The Cryosphere Discuss.: 18 July 2011 Abstract. The observed decline in summer sea ice extent since the 1970s is predicted to
continue until the Arctic Ocean is seasonally ice free during the 21st Century.
This will lead to a much
perturbed Arctic climate with large changes in ocean surface energy flux. Svalbard,
located on the present day sea ice edge, contains many low lying ice caps and
glaciers and is expected to experience rapid warming over the 21st
Century. The total sea level rise if all the land ice on Svalbard were
to melt completely is 0.02 m.
Revised: 04 December 2011 – Accepted: 17 December 2011 – Published: 10 January 2012
The purpose of this study is to quantify the impact of climate change
on Svalbard's surface mass balance (SMB) and to
determine, in particular, what proportion of the projected changes in precipitation
and SMB are a result of changes to the Arctic sea ice cover. To
investigate this a regional climate model was forced with monthly mean
climatologies of sea surface temperature (SST) and sea ice
concentration for the periods 1961–1990 and 2061–2090 under two emission
scenarios. In a novel forcing experiment, 20th Century SSTs
and 21st Century sea ice were used to force one simulation to
investigate the role of sea ice forcing. This experiment
results in a 3.5 m water equivalent increase in Svalbard's SMB compared
to the present day. This is because over 50 % of the projected
increase in winter precipitation over Svalbard under the A1B emissions scenario is due to an
increase in lower atmosphere moisture content associated with
evaporation from the ice free ocean. These results indicate that
increases in precipitation due to sea ice decline may act to moderate mass loss from Svalbard's
glaciers due to future Arctic warming.
Citation: Day, J. J., Bamber, J. L., Valdes, P. J., and Kohler, J.: The impact of a seasonally ice free Arctic Ocean on the temperature, precipitation and surface mass balance of Svalbard, The Cryosphere, 6, 35-50, doi:10.5194/tc-6-35-2012, 2012.