National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2012

Ongoing climate change in the Arctic

Walsh, J.E., J.E. Overland, P.Y. Groisman, and B. Rudolf

AMBIO, 40(Suppl 1), 6-16, doi: 10.1007/s13280-011-0211-z (2011)

During the past decade, the Arctic has experienced its highest temperatures of the instrumental record, even exceeding the warmth of the 1930s and 1940s. Recent paleo-reconstructions also show that recent Arctic summer temperatures are higher than at any time in the past 2000 years. The geographical distribution of the recent warming points strongly to an influence of sea ice reduction. The spatial pattern of the near-surface warming also shows the signature of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation in the Pacific sector as well as the influence of a dipole-like circulation pattern in the Atlantic sector. Areally averaged Arctic precipitation over the land areas north of 55°N shows large year-to-year variability, superimposed on an increase of about 5% since 1950. The years since 2000 have been wetter than average according to both precipitation and river discharge data. There are indications of increased cloudiness over the Arctic, especially low clouds during the warm season, consistent with a longer summer and a reduction of summer sea ice. Storm events and extreme high temperature show signs of increases. The Arctic Ocean has experienced enhanced oceanic heat inflows from both the North Atlantic and the North Pacific. The Pacific inflows evidently played a role in the retreat of sea ice in the Pacific sector of the Arctic Ocean, while the Atlantic water heat influx has been characterized by increasingly warm pulses. Recent shipboard observations show increased ocean heat storage in newly sea-ice-free ocean areas, with increased influence on autumn atmospheric temperature and wind fields.

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