Sea ice in the Arctic grows during the winter and retreats in the summer. The highly reflective white surface of sea ice reflects solar energy, cooling the planet. However, when it melts, the darker ocean absorbs more solar radiation, reinforcing the cycle of melting sea ice. Since sea ice plays a critical role in regulating Earth's climate, changes in sea ice may influence global weather patterns and ocean circulations. In addition to the rise in greenhouse gases in the Arctic, upper tropospheric water vapor (UTWV) or the specific humidity (SH) is also increasing, while acting as an additional greenhouse gas trapping in heat released from the Earth's surface. While annual greenhouse gas concentrations in the Arctic are increasing rather smoothly over time, the interannual variability in sea ice is shown here to be linked to the variability of UTWV at 400 hPa in the Arctic. We propose that increasing thunderstorm activity in the Arctic in the last decade is increasing the water vapor in the upper troposphere, partially explaining the interannual variability, and long term decrease, in the Arctic summer sea ice extent. Both the temporal and spatial analysis between UTWV and Sea Ice changes show that the decline of the summer sea ice cover in the Arctic may be linked to the increasing thunderstorm activity in the Arctic in the last decades.
- Arctic sea ice
- Climate change
- Upper tropospheric water vapor (UTWV)