Observed Atmospheric response to cold season sea ice variability in the Arctic

Claude Frankignoul, Nathalie Sennéchael, Pierre Cauchy

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The relation between weekly Arctic sea ice concentrations (SICs) from December to April and sea level pressure (SLP) during 1979–2007 is investigated using maximum covariance analysis (MCA). In the North Atlantic sector, the interaction between the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) and a SIC seesaw between the Labrador Sea and the Greenland–Barents Sea dominates. The NAO drives the seesaw and in return the seesaw precedes a midwinter/spring NAO-like signal of the opposite polarity but with a strengthened northern lobe, thus acting as a negative feedback, with maximum squared covariance at a lag of 6 weeks. Statistical significance decreases when SLP is considered in the whole Northern Hemisphere but it increases when North Pacific SIC is included in the analysis. The maximum squared covariance then occurs after 8 weeks, resembling a combination of the NAO response to the Atlantic SIC seesaw and the Aleutian–Icelandic low seesaw-like response to in-phase SIC changes in the Bering and Okhotsk Seas, which is found to lag the North Pacific SIC. Adding SST anomalies to the SIC anomalies in the MCA leads to a loss of significance when the MCA is limited to the North Atlantic sector and a slight degradation in the Pacific and hemispheric cases, suggesting that SIC is the driver of the midwinter/spring atmospheric signal. However, North Pacific cold season SST anomalies also precede a NAO/Arctic Oscillation (AO)-like SLP signal after a shorter delay of 3–4 weeks.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1243-1254
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Climate
Early online date24 Jan 2014
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2014


  • Arctic
  • Sea ice
  • Atmosphere-ocean interaction
  • North Atlantic Oscillation

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