Loss of sea ice during winter north of Svalbard
Peer reviewed, Journal article
MetadataShow full item record
- Geophysical Institute 
Sea ice loss in the Arctic Ocean has up to now been strongest during summer. In contrast, the sea ice concentration north of Svalbard has experienced a larger decline during winter since 1979. The trend in winter ice area loss is close to 10% per decade, and concurrent with a 0.3°C per decade warming of the Atlantic Water entering the Arctic Ocean in this region. Simultaneously, there has been a 2°C per decade warming of winter mean surface air temperature north of Svalbard, which is 20- 45% higher than observations on the west coast. Generally, the ice edge north of Svalbard has retreated towards the northeast, along the Atlantic Water pathway. By making reasonable assumptions about the Atlantic Water volume and associated heat transport, we show that the extra oceanic heat brought into the region is likely to have caused the sea ice loss. The reduced sea ice cover leads to more oceanic heat transferred to the atmosphere, suggesting that part of the atmospheric warming is driven by larger open water area. In contrast to significant trends in sea ice concentration, Atlantic Water temperature and air temperature, there is no significant temporal trend in the local winds. Thus, winds have not caused the long-term warming or sea ice loss. However, the dominant winds transport sea ice from the Arctic Ocean into the region north of Svalbard, and the local wind has influence on the year-to-year variability of the ice concentration, which correlates with surface air temperatures, ocean temperatures, as well as the local wind.