National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2018

Recent increased warming of the Alaskan marine Arctic due to midlatitude linkages

Overland, J.E., M. Wang, and T.J. Ballinger

Adv. Atmos. Sci., 35(1), 75–84, doi: 10.1007/s00376-017-7026-1 (2018)

Alaskan Arctic waters have participated in hemispheric-wide Arctic warming over the last two decades at over two times the rate of global warming. During 2008–13, this relative warming occurred only north of the Bering Strait and the atmospheric Arctic front that forms a north–south thermal barrier. This front separates the southeastern Bering Sea temperatures from Arctic air masses. Model projections show that future temperatures in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas continue to warm at a rate greater than the global rate, reaching a change of +4°C by 2040 relative to the 1981–2010 mean. Offshore at 74°N, climate models project the open water duration season to increase from a current average of three months to five months by 2040. These rates are occasionally enhanced by midlatitude connections. Beginning in August 2014, additional Arctic warming was initiated due to increased SST anomalies in the North Pacific and associated shifts to southerly winds over Alaska, especially in winter 2015–16. While global warming and equatorial teleconnections are implicated in North Pacific SSTs, the ending of the 2014–16 North Pacific warm event demonstrates the importance of internal, chaotic atmospheric natural variability on weather conditions in any given year. Impacts from global warming on Alaskan Arctic temperature increases and sea-ice and snow loss, with occasional North Pacific support, are projected to continue to propagate through the marine ecosystem in the foreseeable future. The ecological and societal consequences of such changes show a radical departure from the current Arctic environment.

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