National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2002

Recent temperature changes in the western Arctic during Spring

Overland, J.E., M. Wang, and N.A. Bond

J. Climate, 15(13), 1702–1716, doi: 10.1175/1520-0442(2002)015<1702:RTCITW>2 (2002)

The lower troposphere of the western Arctic (eastern Siberia to western Canada) was relatively warm during spring in the 1990s. Based on the NCEP-NCAR reanalysis, supplemented by the Television Infrared Observation Satellite (TIROS) Operation Vertical Sounder (TOVS) Polar Pathfinder dataset, this warmth a result of a recent increase in the frequency of warm months, compared to the previous four decades. The primary difference between four notably warm springs in the 1990s and four cold springs in the 1980s was the sense of the horizontal advection term in a lower-tropospheric heat budget for northern Alaska/southern Beaufort Sea. While the horizontal advection of heat was highly episodic, it was related to changes in the mean circulation at low levels, in particular a shift from anomalous northeasterly flow in the 1980s to anomalous southwesterly flow in the 1990s during March and April. This change in the low-level winds in the western Arctic coincided with a systematic shift in the Arctic Oscillation (AO) near the end of the 1980s, and reflects the equivalent barotropic nature of the AO. The stratospheric temperature anomalies associated with the AO were greatest in March; the low-level wind anomalies brought about near-surface temperature anomalies in northern Alaska that peaked in April. In addition to substantial decadal differences, there was considerable month-to-month and year-to-year variability within the last two decades.

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