National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2019

Subseasonal atmospheric regimes and ocean background forcing of Pacific Arctic sea ice melt onset

Ballinger, T.J., C.C. Lee, S.C. Sheridan, A.D. Crawford, J.E. Overland, and M. Wang

Climate Dynam., 52, 5657–5672, doi: 10.1007/s00382-018-4467-x, Published online (2018)

One observed fingerprint of Pacific Arctic environmental change, induced by climate warming and amplified local feedbacks, is a shift toward earlier onset of sea ice melt. Shorter freeze periods impact the melt season energy balance with cascading effects on ecological productivity and human presence in the region. Through this study, a non-linear technique, self-organizing maps, is utilized to investigate the subseasonal role of regional pressure patterns and associated lower-tropospheric wind regimes on melt onset in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas. Focus is directed on the frequency and duration (≥ 3 consecutive days) of offshore, onshore, and zonal/weak flow that tend to precede anomalous (late and early) and average times of melt. Background North Pacific climate forcing ascribed from the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) phase and Bering Strait oceanic heat flux measurements provide a surface thermal context to the composite wind fields. In early melt onset years, onshore (northerly) winds occur approximately 1–3 fewer days with offsetting increases in zonal and offshore flow in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas. During these cases, the Beaufort High pattern tends to set-up more frequently around the southeastern Beaufort Sea region, yielding winds of a southerly and/or easterly nature that are enhanced by cyclone activity to the south or downstream. Chukchi Sea weather analyses, in particular, suggest that interacting, precursor mechanisms involving warm air advection off snow-free Arctic lands and from southerly latitudes coupled with a slightly positive PDO state and anomalous, poleward oceanic heat transfer condition the seasonal ice pack for increasingly early melt.

Feature Publications | Outstanding Scientific Publications

Contact Sandra Bigley |