Climate Dynamics

, Volume 38, Issue 9–10, pp 2099–2113 | Cite as

Northern Alaskan land surface response to reduced Arctic sea ice extent

  • Matthew E. Higgins
  • John J. Cassano


With Arctic sea ice extent at near-record lows, an improved understanding of the relationship between sea ice and the land surface is warranted. We examine the land surface response to changing sea ice by first conducting a simulation using the Community Atmospheric Model version 3.1 with end of the twenty-first century sea ice extent. This future atmospheric response is then used to force the Weather and Research Forecasting Model version 3.1 to examine the terrestrial land surface response at high resolution over the North Slope of Alaska. Similar control simulations with twentieth century sea ice projections are also performed, and in both simulations only sea ice extent is altered. In the future sea ice extent experiment, atmospheric temperature increases significantly due to increases in latent and sensible heat flux, particularly in the winter season. Precipitation and snow pack increase significantly, and the increased snow pack contributes to warmer soil temperatures for most seasons by insulating the land surface. In the summer, however, soil temperatures are reduced due to increased albedo. Despite warmer near-surface atmospheric temperatures, it is found that spring melt is delayed throughout much of the North Slope due to the increased snow pack, and the growing season length is shortened.


Arctic Sea ice Snow Land surface 



The authors would like to thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. This analysis was supported by NSF Award ARC-0805821, ONR Award N00244-07-1-0024, and DOE award DE-FG02-07ER64462.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental SciencesUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA
  2. 2.Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic SciencesUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA

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