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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 12, issue 10 | Copyright
The Cryosphere, 12, 3373-3382, 2018
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-12-3373-2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 26 Oct 2018

Research article | 26 Oct 2018

Arctic climate: changes in sea ice extent outweigh changes in snow cover

Aaron Letterly1, Jeffrey Key2, and Yinghui Liu1 Aaron Letterly et al.
  • 1Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI, USA
  • 2National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Madison, WI, USA

Abstract. Recent declines in Arctic sea ice and snow extent have led to an increase in the absorption of solar energy at the surface, resulting in additional surface heating and a further decline in snow and ice. Using 34 years of satellite data, 1982–2015, we found that the positive trend in solar absorption over the Arctic Ocean is more than double that over Arctic land, and the magnitude of the ice–albedo feedback is four times that of the snow–albedo feedback in summer. The timing of the high-to-low albedo transition has shifted closer to the greater insolation of the summer solstice over ocean, but further away from the summer solstice over land. Therefore, decreasing sea ice cover, not changes in terrestrial snow cover, has been the dominant radiative feedback mechanism over the last few decades.

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Significant reductions in Arctic sea ice and snow cover on Arctic land have led to increases in absorbed solar energy by the surface. Does one play a more important role in Arctic climate change? Using 34 years of satellite data we found that solar energy absorption increased by 10 % over the ocean, which was 3 times greater than over land. Therefore, the decreasing sea ice cover, not changes in terrestrial snow cover, has been the dominant feedback mechanism over the last few decades.
Significant reductions in Arctic sea ice and snow cover on Arctic land have led to increases in...
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