Pengfei Zhang, Gang Chen, Mingfang Ting, L. Ruby Leung, Bin Guan & Laifang Li
Department of Energy, Office of Science, Earth & Environmental Systems Modeling Program Acknowledged Support: Yes, Regional and Global Model Analysis
In recent decades, Arctic sea-ice coverage underwent a drastic decline in winter, when sea ice is expected to recover following the melting season. It is unclear to what extent atmospheric processes such as atmospheric rivers (ARs), intense corridors of moisture transport, contribute to this reduced recovery of sea ice. Here, using observations and climate model simulations, we find a robust frequency increase in ARs in early winter over the Barents–Kara Seas and the central Arctic for 1979–2021. The moisture carried by more frequent ARs has intensified surface downward longwave radiation and rainfall, caused stronger melting of thin, fragile ice cover and slowed the seasonal recovery of sea ice, accounting for 34% of the sea-ice cover decline in the Barents–Kara Seas and central Arctic. A series of model ensemble experiments suggests that, in addition to a uniform AR increase in response to anthropogenic warming, tropical Pacific variability also contributes to the observed Arctic AR changes.