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Arctic sea ice and the Madden–Julian Oscillation (MJO)


Arctic sea ice responds to atmospheric forcing in primarily a top-down manner, whereby near-surface air circulation and temperature govern motion, formation, melting, and accretion. As a result, concentrations of sea ice vary with phases of many of the major modes of atmospheric variability, including the North Atlantic Oscillation, the Arctic Oscillation, and the El Niño-Southern Oscillation. However, until this present study, variability of sea ice by phase of the leading mode of atmospheric intraseasonal variability, the Madden–Julian Oscillation (MJO), which has been found to modify Arctic circulation and temperature, remained largely unstudied. Anomalies in daily change in sea ice concentration were isolated for all phases of the real-time multivariate MJO index during both summer (May–July) and winter (November–January) months. The three principal findings of the current study were as follows. (1) The MJO projects onto the Arctic atmosphere, as evidenced by statistically significant wavy patterns and consistent anomaly sign changes in composites of surface and mid-tropospheric atmospheric fields. (2) The MJO modulates Arctic sea ice in both summer and winter seasons, with the region of greatest variability shifting with the migration of the ice margin poleward (equatorward) during the summer (winter) period. Active regions of coherent ice concentration variability were identified in the Atlantic sector on days when the MJO was in phases 4 and 7 and the Pacific sector on days when the MJO was in phases 2 and 6, all supported by corresponding anomalies in surface wind and temperature. During July, similar variability in sea ice concentration was found in the North Atlantic sector during MJO phases 2 and 6 and Siberian sector during MJO phases 1 and 5, also supported by corresponding anomalies in surface wind. (3) The MJO modulates Arctic sea ice regionally, often resulting in dipole-shaped patterns of variability between anomaly centers. These results provide an important first look at intraseasonal variability of sea ice in the Arctic.